The secretary general of the council said that Islam, like Judaism, is now a part of today's Europe, and adherents of both religions should be able to live without fear.
Rabat – The Council of Europe (CoE) announced on Wednesday its appointment of a special representative to combat anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim hatred.
Daniel Holtgen, the director of communications of the Council of Europe, will be the first “Special Representative on Antisemitic and Anti-Muslim Hatred and Hate Crimes.”
Holtgen’s task is to join forces with decision-makers at the European level and ensure the collective expertise of the Council of Europe to prevent anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim acts.
During Holtgen’s appointment on Wednesday, the Council of Europe’s Secretary-General Marija Pejcinovic Buric highlighted the attacks at the hands of a “far-right extremist” in Hanau, Germany, earlier this year. In February, the terrorist attacked two shisha bars and killed nine people, including several Muslims.
Buric also recalled the deadly anti-Semitic attack at a synagogue in Halle, Germany, on the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur one year ago. More recently, on Sunday, an assailant attacked a Jewish man entering a synagogue in the German city of Hamburg during the Jewish holiday of Sukkot.
“We are witnessing an alarming increase in antisemitic and anti-Muslim attacks in many parts of Europe today, often incited and aggravated by hate speech online,” said the European official.
The secretary-general said that Islam, like Judaism, is a part of today’s Europe. Both communities should live without fear of hatred, Buric stressed.
The freedom from religious discrimination has been at the core of the Council of Europe’s mission since its establishment in 1949.
Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia have increased in recent years amid the rise of the far-right.
In particular, hatred and crimes against Muslims, mosques, and the Quran occur frequently across Europe, especially as Muslim immigrant populations grow.
Discrimination against Muslims in Europe does not only occur among communities and individuals, but can also dominate media discourse.
French political journalist Eric Zemmour, for example, is well-known in Europe for his hardline positions against Islam and immigrants.
On February 10, during a debate with France’s Secretary of State for Gender Equality and Combating Discrimination, Marlene Schiappa, Zemmour said that Muslims in France who name their child Mohammed or wear the veil are engaging in self-discrimination.
Zemmour said that “calling [a] child Mohammed … is self discrimination,” adding that “the parents should have called him Francois.” He argued that non-Judeo-Christian names like Mohammed jeopardize the survival of France’s history and culture.
France has investigated and convicted Zemmour for hate speech in the past. One notable incident that prompted an investigation occurred on September 28, 2019, when he spoke before the “Convention of the Right.”
During his speech, Zemmour said “Muslim immigrants” are “colonizers” carrying out a “large replacement” of France’s predominantly white and Chrisitan population and embarking on an “Islamization of the streets.”
“Will young French people accept to live in a minority on the land of their ancestors?”