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European Muslims face growing discrimination-report
LONDON (Reuters) - Muslims are facing increased discrimination across Europe and urgent action needs to be taken at local, national and EU levels to tackle the problem, according to a report published on Tuesday.
The Open Society Institute, a private foundation set up by billionaire financier George Soros, said many Muslims suffered unfair treatment along with social and economic disadvantages, despite being integral to the cities in which they lived.
"Europe needs to live up to its promise of an inclusive, open society," said Nazia Hussain, director of OSI's At Home in Europe project.
"Switzerland's recent ban on minarets is a clear sign that anti-Muslim sentiment is a real problem in Europe."
Swiss voters backed a ban on building minarets in a referendum last month to widespread international criticism.
The OSI report, based on more than 2,000 interviews in 11 cities in seven countries -- the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Denmark, Britain, France and Sweden -- said there were between 15 and 20 million Muslims living in the EU, a figure expected to double by 2025.
It said Muslims faced higher unemployment, had lower-paid jobs and suffered higher poverty rates, while some Muslim pupils faced racism and prejudice, and were confronted by lower expectations from teachers.
Many Muslims, who were not EU citizens, remained disenfranchised with no right to vote in local elections even though they were long-standing residents.
"The OSI research suggests that religious discrimination against Muslims remains a critical barrier to full and equal participation in society," the report said.
"The findings of this report are consistent with other research and suggest that levels of religious discrimination directed towards Muslims are widespread and have increased in the past five years."
The survey said Muslims did feel a sense of belonging to the city and country in which they lived, and wanted to reside in mixed communities rather than "among their own kind".
"There is very little official data available on Europe's Muslim and minority populations," Hussain said.
"What does exist is either anecdotal or extrapolated and contributes to an inaccurate picture of Muslim communities and minorities in Europe and a lack of understanding of the experiences and concerns of these communities."
The report made a host of recommendations, saying EU policymakers should address discrimination in areas such as education and housing, and called for better data to allow evidence-based policies that helped facilitate integration.
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