Friday, 29 October 2010

Hammarberg: European Muslims are stigmatised by populist rhetoric

Strasbourg, 28.10.2010 - European countries appear to face another crisis beyond budget deficits – the disintegration of human values. One symptom is the increasing expression of intolerance towards Muslims, says the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Thomas Hammarberg, in his latest Human Rights Comment published today.

The Swiss referendum banning the building of minarets was no exception: opinion polls in several European countries reflect fear, suspicion and negative opinions of Muslims and Islamic culture.

These Islamophobic prejudices are combined with racist attitudes – directed not least against people originating from Turkey, Arab countries and South Asia. Muslims with this background are discriminated in the labour market and the education system in a number of European countries. There are reports showing that they tend to be targeted by police in repeated identity controls and intrusive searches. This is a serious human rights problem.

Recent elections have seen extremist political parties gaining ground after aggressively Islamophobic campaigns. Even more worrying is the inertia or confusion which seems to have befallen the established democratic parties in this situation. Compromises are made which tend to give an air of legitimacy to crude prejudices and open xenophobia.

Public opinion response: limit religious freedom of Muslims

When the German President Christian Wulff in a recent speech confirmed the obvious, that Islam – like Christianity and Judaism - is part of the national context, this was seen as controversial. One newspaper reported that two thirds of the population disagreed.

A more ambitious survey initiated by Friedrich Ebert Stiftung showed that 58 per cent agreed that “religious practices for Muslims in Germany should be seriously limited”. Though not totally clear, this statement appears to reject freedom of religion for one group – Muslims. The broad support for this opinion is a bad sign.

Interestingly, there were huge regional differences in the responses to the survey. In the eastern part of the country – with a much smaller Muslim population - support for the statement was as high as 76 per cent. Distance and ignorance tend to increase suspicions.

Politicians should not ride the populist wave

This appears to be a general phenomenon: lack of knowledge feeds prejudices. Political leaders have on the whole failed to counter Islamophobic stereotypes.

Of course, this became more difficult after the terrorist attacks in New York, Madrid, London, Amsterdam and also Beslan and Moscow. However, the emotions caused by these horrible crimes called for systematic efforts to establish a distinction between the evildoers and the overwhelming majority of Muslims. These efforts were rarely made.

Neither has sufficient priority been given to analysing what makes some people listen to hateful propaganda against Muslims. Part of the explanation appears to be the same ignorance, fear and frustration which have caused bigotry against Roma and immigrants in general. We have learnt that minorities are sometimes turned into scapegoats by people who feel alienated and ignored by those in power. It is important to seek full explanations.

President Wulff was of course right: Islam is already part of our culture. Muslims in Europe – including the approximately 1.6 million Muslims in the United Kingdom, 3.8 million in Germany, 5 million in France and 15-20 million in Russia - contribute to our economies and societies. They belong. Most of them are in fact born in these countries, the majority are not particularly religious and very few can be characterised as Islamists.

Bigotry is not part of European values

The diverse groups of Muslims are now blamed by politicians in some countries for not “assimilating”. However, integration is a two-way process based on mutual understanding. Anti-Muslim bigotry has in fact become a major obstacle to respectful relationships. Indeed, the Islamophobic atmosphere has probably been a factor enabling extremists in some cases to recruit young and embittered individuals who lack a sense of belonging.

Instead of discussing such problems seriously, we have had a debate about methods to penalise women wearing the niqab and to prevent the building of minarets. This is hardly the way to give depth to our European values.

Communication Division of the Congress
of Local and Regional Authorities
Tel: +33 (0)3 90 21 52 40
Fax:+33 (0)3 88 41 27 51

New HREA introductory e-course on Rights of the Child

HREA has launched a second introductory e-course: Rights of the Child. This course takes between 3 and 10 hours to complete, yet is completely self-paced and thus can be spread out over days, weeks or even months depending upon the situation of the learner. To successfully complete the course, learners have to pass assessments throughout the course. Upon completion, learners receive a certificate of completion.

The introductory e-courses are primarily intended for those who want a quick introduction into a human rights-related topic through readings and rich multimedia, including videos and podcasts.

The first introductory e-course Rights of Refugees and Displaced Persons was launched in July and has received very positive feedback. Additional introductory e-courses on Human Rights in Europe (November 2010) and International Humanitarian Law (January 2011) will be be launched in the coming months.

You can try a free demo of the course, get more information, and enroll in the introductory e-course Rights of the Child at:
For more information about short and specialised distance learning courses offered by HREA, please visit:

Council of Europe Charter on Education for Democratic Citizenship and Human Rights Education

Council of Europe Charter on Education for Democratic Citizenship and Human Rights Education - Recommendation CM/Rec(2010)7 and explanatory memorandum (15/10/2010)
Education plays an essential role in the promotion of the core values of the Council of Europe: democracy, human rights and the rule of law, as well as in the prevention of human rights violations. More generally, education is increasingly seen as a defence against the rise of violence, racism, extremism, xenophobia, discrimination and intolerance. This growing awareness is reflected in the adoption of the Council of Europe Charter on Education for Democratic Citizenship and Human Rights Education (EDC/ HRE) by the Organisation's 47 member states in the framework of Recommendation CM/Rec(2010)7. The Charter was developed over a period of several years as a result of wide-ranging consultations and is non-binding. It will be an important reference point for all those dealing wi th citizenship and human rights education. It will hopefully provide a focus and catalyst for action in the member states, as well as a way of disseminating good practice and raising standards throughout Europe and beyond.

ISBN : 978-92-871-6898-6
Format : A5
No. of pages : 35
Price : 8 €/ 16 $
+ 10% postage

To place an order directly

Thursday, 21 October 2010

CALL FOR PARTNERS: Human Rights CREATIVE, Sonnenberg 2011

We are looking for project partners for an international Training Course, Action 4.3 in the Youth in Action Programme.
The Training Course “Human Rights CREATIVE“ will be held in International House Sonnenberg, Germany from 4th – 11th of April 2011.

We are looking for partners from program countries (European Union). The number of participants in the Training Course will be about 35.

About the projectThe Training Course ”Human Rights CREATIVE” will firstly give a short general introduction into the topic of Human Rights and Human Rights Education (HRE), in order to then present a wide range of methods with a creative approach (such as theatre, film, arts etc.) that can be used to work with (international) young people on the topic of Human Rights.

About usThe International House Sonnenberg is an education center offering a wide range of conferences, seminars and other educational activities for youth, children, adults and families. A huge focus lies on international encounters, political issues and training courses for multipliers.
More information:

In April 2009 we facilitated the course “Methods of Human Rights Education in Youth Work” in cooperation with the DARE-network. You can find the documentation at

Target group The Course addresses young multipliers, aged between 18 and 35, such as youth workers, youth leaders, social workers, teachers, students of educational subjects, and all other people working with youth and interested in the topic of Human Rights.

Topics that will be covered in our training course “Human Rights CREATIVE”:? What are Human Rights and where do they come from?
? The importance and aims of Human Rights Education (HRE)
? A simulation game on a current topic related to Human Rights
? Individual Workshops, held by different international experts, teaching a variety of creative approaches for teaching Human Rights, e.g. theatre methods, artistic methods, video/films, photography, …
? One-day-excursion to visit projects/organizations active in Human Rights Education
? Developing ideas for (joint) practical projects, using creative methods of HRE

Objectives: - to equip young multipliers with a wide range of creative methods for teaching Human Rights
- to stimulate participants to take an active role in promoting Human Rights
- to arise young people's awareness of topics related to Human Rights

The methodology of the training course:The project is designed as an open learning process based on participants’ exchange of experiences and opinions. The training course follows the approach of non-formal and social education.
In addition we will invite international experts to hold workshops on creative methods and to give presentations on the theoretical background of Human Rights (Education).

Trainers:Jochen Dallmer, Berlin/Germany, “Young Friends of the Earth Germany”
Samuel Mejias, ICEDC, DARE, London/United Kingdom

Working language:
English – all participants must be able to actively communicate in English

Prerequisites: We are expecting from participants in our training course “Human Rights CREATIVE” to have:
? previous experiences and knowledge of working with young people
? basic knowledge in the field of Human Rights
? good English communication skills
? willingness to develop a project within the Youth in Action Programme as an outcome after the training course
? willingness to participate throughout the full duration of the Training Course

Financial conditions:The participation fee for each participant will be: 130,- Euros
There is a reduced fee for participants from Eastern European countries: 80,- Euros
This fee includes food and lodging at our beautiful education center as well as program costs during the entire training course.
70% of your travel costs will be reimbursed, if you hand in or show us the original tickets at the training course.

Partner requests:? As a partner you identify and send 4-6 participants from your country that will take part in the training course (and pay the individual fee – unless your organization can give financial support)
? You have to sign the Part III of our application to the Youth in Action Programme and send it back to us by October 28th
? You get informed about the developing and the outcome of the Training Course
? You will be mentioned as an official partner of the project on our Homepage and in the printed leaflet

So, if you are interested to be a partner organization in our training course “Human Rights CREATIVE“, please first send to us the filled-in, signed and stamped Part III of the application for Youth in Action either by email to or by fax to: +49-5582-944-100.

Then please send us the original (filled-in, signed and stamped) Part III by snail mail to:
Internationales Haus Sonnenberg
Katja Pötzsch-Martin
Clausthaler Straße 11
37444 St. Andreasberg

The deadline for receiving your Part III is October 28th 2010.
For more information about the Training Course, please contact Katja Pötzsch-Martin by e-mail: or call +49-(0)5582-944-148 / -116

Katja Pötzsch-Martin
Internationales Haus Sonnenberg
Sonnenberg-Kreis e.V.
Clausthaler Str. 11
37444 St. Andreasberg

Tel.: +49 (0) 5582/ 944 -148
Fax: +49 (0) 5582/ 944 -100

Friday, 15 October 2010

DARE Video 14: Cat McIlroy on Gender Identity, Human Rights and Transgender Inclusion

Cat McIlroy is a member of the Steering Committee of Transgender Europe (TGEU), a network of organisations that work for the rights of transgender/transsexual/gender variant people. Cat points out that trans* people still face major fundamental rights violations when it comes to gender identity recognition, access to healthcare, and employment.

In this respect the recently published issue paper “Human Rights and Gender Identity” by Thomas Hammarberg, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, plays an important role as a reference document and lobbying tool in order to advocate trans* rights.

This interview was shot at the 3rd Trangender Council in Malmö, Oct 1-3, 2010.

Check the full DARE video library!

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Apply for Workshop on 1989 European Regime Changes !

EUTRA: European Transitions from Dictatorship to Democracy in the late 1980's

Location: Berlin
Date: March 6-12, 2011

This workshop will focus on the 1989 regime changes in Europe and other political transitions of the late 80's, and is open to all applicants with a permanent residency in one of the EU member states, plus Norway, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Turkey. The application deadline is Nov. 1, 2010.

Click here for more information and the application form.

Preference will be given to applicants with:

* a basic understanding of and a strong interest in the regime changes in Central and Eastern European countries in the late 1980's;
* first-hand experience with these types of transitions;
* previous experience in educational activities or community projects exploring these issues;
* an outline of an individual follow-up activity making use of the workshop results in the applicants´ home community, be it the workplace, a volunteer group or other.

Costs for accommodation and group meals during the workshop will be covered. Travel costs will be reimbursed up to €250. Individual exceptions will be considered on a need basis.

The workshop is funded by the EU Lifelong Learning Program, "Grundtvig."