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Muslims in Europe face discrimination in education, employment and housing and are often victims of verbal abuse and physical attacks, but also need to do more to become part of European society, an EU group said.
Muslims in Europe face a number of hurdles, the study shows
"The report makes it clear that Muslims ... frequently suffer different forms of discrimination which reduce their employment opportunities, and affect their educational achievement," Beate Winkler, director of the European Monitoring Center on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC), said Monday in a statement.
The 115-page EUMC report is the first to cover Muslims across the European Union and coincides with growing scrutiny of EU Muslims spurred by terrorism and increased immigration from the Islamic world.
The "Muslims in the European Union: Discrimination and Islamophobia" study, published on Monday, said incidents against Muslims were "under-documented and under-reported" and called on European Union countries to improve their methods for reporting hate crimes.
"Greater efforts need to be made to ensure that all European Muslims enjoy the right to equal treatment and the same quality of life as other Europeans," Winkler added.
Verbal attacks to assault
Women wearing headscarves are especially prone to discrimination
The report by the Vienna-based organization said European Muslims were "over-represented in low-paying sectors of the economy," living in poor housing conditions, with below-average education leading to low-skilled jobs or unemployment.
"Many European Muslims, particularly young people, face barriers to their social advancement," the report said. "This could give rise to a feeling of hopelessness and social exclusion."
The EUMC, which is to become the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights in 2007, cited incidents "ranging from verbal abuse to physical attacks and arson" but added that little data was available on them as most EU countries do not report suspected racial or religious motivation behind many crimes.
Better data collection required
EU governments need to keep better track of crimes' motivation
"Available official data needs to be strengthened in order to identify religiously motivated or aggravated offenses," the report said, adding that only Britain and Finland currently published details of racist crimes.
"The failure of many member states to collect effective data means that it is very difficult to develop workable policies to counter racism," Anastasia Crickley, chairwoman of the EUMC management board said in the statement.
The report called on EU countries to implement more anti-discrimination measures, facilitate integration and improve employment opportunities for minority youth.
"Muslims feel that acceptance by society is increasingly premised on 'assimilation' and the assumption that they should lose their Muslim identity," Winkler said. She added that since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks in the United States, many Muslims feel "they have been put under a general suspicion of terrorism."
Integration a "two-way process"
Winkler said Muslims are not given equal chances for housing and education in Europe
The report also highlighted current initiatives promoting dialogue and cooperation between religions in countries such as Luxembourg, Germany, Britain and the Netherlands, noting that cohesion was "a two-way process."
"Many European Muslims acknowledge that they need to do more to engage with wider society," the report said. "At the same time Europe's political leaders must make a stronger effort to promote meaningful intercultural dialogue and tackle racism, discrimination and marginalization more effectively."
In interviews, some Muslims said their local mosques were failing to help them integrate by not considering critical questions they had about dealing with everyday life in secular European society, such as relationships, sexuality and drugs.
About 13 million Muslims live in the European Union, according to official data and estimates from non-governmental organizations, making up 3.5 percent of the entire EU population, the EUMC report said.