On 21st January 2021, Forward Thinking held an online roundtable with Dr Yasemin El-Menouar to discuss Islamophobia in Europe.
In, 2019, research conducted for the Bertelsmann Stiftung’s Religion Monitor highlighted widespread mistrust toward Muslims across Europe. In Germany and Switzerland, every second respondent said they perceived Islam as a threat. In the UK, two in five shared this perception. COVID-19 has also been used to justify Islamophobic hate crime.
Dr Yasemin El-Menouar provided an introductory briefing on current trends with Islamophobia in Europe, examining similarities and differences between the UK and other European counties. Islam has endured stable negative perceptions throughout the last decade. Negative perceptions of Islam subsequently impact perceptions of Muslims.
Findings from research have shown that personal contact is key for positive perceptions between groups to grow and Yasemin emphasised that the most important way to combat anti-pluralist perceptions is to increase everyday social interactions between groups.
Community members and establishment figures provided their insights and discussed potential ways of moving forward. Many emphasised that for progress to occur, there must be greater engagement between Muslim communities and other groups. However, other participants raised that tackling Islamophobia in the UK should not be the work of Muslim communities alone and that educating people on Islam is not sufficient. Participants also discussed Islamophobia within UK political parties and issues relating to the CPS. Coordination at the European level on Islamophobia was suggested as a way of addressing the challenges faced. The need to empower youth voices to be able to confront discrimination was also underlined.
Dr Yasemin El-Menouar is a Senior Expert on Islam in Europe, religious diversity and racism at the Bertelsmann Stiftung. She is responsible for the Religion Monitor project at the Bertelsmann Stiftung which is addressing challenges and chances of the growing cultural and religious diversity in European societies. She published numerous articles on these topics, also in leading news magazines (e.g., Financial Times, The Guardian, Die Zeit).
She has previously taught courses on social integration, religious minorities and migration at the University of Dusseldorf. Yasemin El-Menouar also worked at the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees where she conducted research projects for the Deutsche Islam Konferenz. She was associate fellow at the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP) where she investigated the role of German Muslim organisations for foreign policy. Currently she is board member of the commission against anti-Muslim hostility at the German interior ministry. She studied sociology and Islamic studies and holds a PhD in Social Sciences.