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  • Final Activity Report Summary - DISCRIMUSMIN (Religious discrimination of Muslims in the European Union: experience of injustice, fight for recognition and implementation of equality ...)

Final Activity Report Summary - DISCRIMUSMIN (Religious discrimination of Muslims in the European Union: experience of injustice, fight for recognition and implementation of equality ...)

Public reports and surveys of the post 9/11 European context have shown the extent to which anti-Muslim feelings and expression of hostility to Islam have been growing in various member-states over the last five years. Most of these publications have connected a general Islamophobia (mostly defined as a cultural racism) to concrete practices leading to the unequal treatment of Muslims in European secular societies (religious discrimination). As a complement to this overall perspective on the way Muslims and Islam are perceived in European public opinions, DISCRIMUSMIN permitted the collection of both legal and ethnographic data in the framework of a comparative study of religious discrimination experienced by Muslims living in France, Germany, united Kingdom and Italy.

The notion of religious discrimination became legally binding and operative in the context, first of the EU anti-discrimination policies that gained salience since the 1997 Amsterdam Treaty (article 13), second of the various EU laws (directives) and action plans that have been implemented later on. Religion remains however quite marginal compared to the judgments and cases for discrimination on ground of race, ethnic origin or gender.

By focusing on the juridical notion of 'religious discrimination' applied to Muslims living in four EU Member States, the research project created a mapping of the various elements that interact with the experience of injustice as reported by Muslims, individually or collectively, to courts. The central hypothesis was the following: religious discrimination may be relevant in helping to map the specific forms of inequality and injustice that certain Muslim individuals are experiencing in specific sectors, in particular education. Bringing discrimination in the field of 'Islam-in-Europe' studies helped, first the disconnection from analytical perspectives primarily centred on worship and institutional issues, second the illustration of new grammars of social conflicts in which religious forms of belonging play a role.

The project had therefore three main objectives: first, the identification of sites/topics of contention between Muslims and public authorities, in particular expressed as experience of 'discrimination', of 'injustice' and 'unfairness' made to them as a specific group; second, the comparative assessment of national differences in the publication process of the discussion around Islam as far as European public spaces are concerned; third, demonstrating the relevance of the notion of 'religious discrimination' as analytical frame to map and understand the ongoing social and cultural dynamics among Muslims in Europe.

DISCRIMUSMIN dealt with two levels of analysis. First, it concentrated on the juridical and legal discourse framing the application of religious discrimination to the situation of Muslims in EU member states (production of legally binding texts, court decisions and more generally reading of court cases selected in the four contexts). Second, it encompassed also interviews with Muslim activists engaged in claim-making and mobilisation for the defence of Muslim rights in Europe in an anti-discrimination framework. It ended up with a work on the double dynamic of 'juridicisation' (i.e. the use, by individuals, of juridical tools and arenas (courts) to seek satisfaction of their needs, answers to their complaints and, eventually, reparation for damages), and of 'judicialisation' (understood as the general process by which legal discourses 'penetrate and are absorbed by political discourse').

While religion is not on any of the European agendas, looking at the articulation of norms of EU anti-discrimination policies with specific unequal treatment of Muslims became a way to look at the processes through which what is taken for granted (secularism) and in most of the case what is unquestioned (the religious believing and belonging of European citizens), is made first visible, second problematic.

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