Religious intolerance is a daily reality in Europe, mainly targeted at Muslims. We need to better understand the dynamics behind the new trend of laws and popular opinion banning minority religious expression and stigmatizing Islam.
Editor's note: This piece is part four of five in the series “Religion, Politics & the Public Space” in collaboration with the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations and its Global Experts project. Check back tomorrow to read the final commentary.
Religious intolerance is a daily reality in Europe. Mainly targeted at Muslims, attacks on religious pluralism focus on refusing to share public space with non-majority religions or only tolerating practices seen as “secular.” The key voices of intolerance are neither marginal nor can they be dismissed as old-style far-right activists. They are today often heads of government, important ministers, or powerful politicians.
Their words express an emerging refrain of official xenophobia. Successive recent salvos by the French president and German chancellor on the failure of multiculturalism in countries where that policy has never been promoted, and the British prime minister’s February speech associating multiculturalism with Islamic terrorism are among the latest examples.
The desire to make Islam invisible has resulted not just in stigmatizing speeches, but also in new laws, On 29 November 2009, 57.5 percent of Swiss citizens voting in a popular referendum agreed to forbid the building of new minarets in their country. This appears part of a broad European trend.
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