Muslims 'attached' to Europe despite discrimination: study

VIENNA: A large majority of Muslims in Europe feel closely connected to the country they live in and trust public institutions despite facing "widespread discrimination", a study suggested Thursday.

The findings come ahead of elections in Germany on Sunday and in Austria next month when rightwing parties critical of Muslim immigration are expected to perform well.

76% of 10,527 first and second-generation Muslims in 15 European Union member states feel "strongly attached" to their country of residence, according to the survey by the Vienna-based EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA).

Nonetheless, nearly 40% also reported suffering discrimination and harassment because of their ethnic or immigration background, particularly in the Netherlands and France.

Both countries have large Muslim communities and far-right parties sharply critical of Islam came second in elections this year.

"Our survey results make a mockery of the claim that Muslims aren't integrated into our societies," says FRA Director Michael O'Flaherty.

"On the contrary, we see a trust in democratic institutions that is higher than much of the general population."

O'Flaherty warned that key obstacles to Muslims' social inclusion were the large-scale discrimination and "hate" crimes they experienced on a regular basis.

Anti-Muslim attitude in Austria

A third of Muslim job-seekers said they had encountered bias during their hunt for work over the past five years, the survey found.

Many also described having trouble gaining access to housing or education because of their Arabic-sounding name or their headscarf, for instance.

The study singled out its host country Austria, where the far-right may enter government following elections on Oct 15, as one of the EU's least Muslim-friendly countries.

Austria's anti-immigration Freedom Party (FPOe) has long railed against Muslims but the two main centrist parties have also taken a harder line in campaigning ahead of the vote.

"Austrians' strongly negative attitudes toward Muslims are being influenced by the public discourse," FRA spokeswoman Katya Andrusz said.

Meanwhile, the survey also showed that most Muslims were "generally open" towards people from different religious or cultural backgrounds.

Close to half said the would feel "totally comfortable" with a family member marrying a non-Muslim.

But 23% told FRA they would not be comfortable with having gay or bisexual neighbours. — AFP