By  Hany Salah, IOL Correspondent

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“The association will seek to enhance Muslims’ awareness of their rights under the laws and constitutions of their European countries,” Abu Shwaima told IOL.

CAIRO — Muslims activists from 26 European countries have come together to launch the first rights association to enlighten European Muslims about their rights, monitor rising Islamophobia and defend Muslim rights in European courts of law.“We think European human rights groups are not doing enough to defend the rights of Muslims,” Ali Abu Shwaima, the director of the Islamic Center in Milano, told IslamOnline.net on Monday, December 21.

“Therefore we though that we need this new association, especially that all laws and constitutions in Europe respect freedom of religion and oppose all forms of discrimination and racism.”

The Association for European Muslims Rights was launched Sunday, December 20, in the Belgian capital Brussels.

Abu Shwaima said the launch was attended by activists from nearly 26 European countries.The participants had formed a general committee to elect the association steering team.

The association would include four committees for violations monitoring, media outreach, governmental liaison and financial issues.

“We are now seeking to register the association with European countries and the European Union,” Abu Shwaima.

“We have taken into consideration that the association’s statues confirm with laws in all European countries to avoid any registration problems.”

Multiple Roles

The launch of the new body was attended by activists from nearly 26 European countries.

The fledging association seeks to play multiple roles in serving Muslims in Europe, estimated at nearly 25 millions.“The association will seek to enhance Muslims’ awareness of their rights under the laws and constitutions of their European countries,” says Abu Shwaima, a founding member.

“This could help abort far-rightists’ attempts to deprive them of such rights.”

Last week, the international Open Society Institute said Muslims in Europe are facing growing discrimination including social and economic disadvantages.

A recent report by the European Monitoring Center on Racism and Xenophobia said Muslim minorities in Europe face deep-seated discrimination in jobs, education and housing in addition to myriad barriers that give rise to feelings of hopelessness and exclusion.

“The association will also monitor violations of Muslims’ rights in view of rising Islamophobia in Europe,” says Abu Shwaima.

“It intends to use the media to defend Muslim rights as well as highlight Muslim contributions to European societies in the cultural, economic and sports fields.”

The association also plans to take Muslim grievances to European courts of law through a group of lawyers and legal experts.

“We will coordinate and cooperate with EU organizations, especially those that people can resort to when authorities in their own countries fail to protect their rights,” says Abu Shwaima.

He noted that Swiss Muslims, for example, can go to the European Court of Human Rights to challenge a blanket ban on the construction of mosque minarets in the Alpine country.

Swiss voters backed last month a proposal by the right-wing Swiss People’s Party (SVP) to ban minaret building in the European country.

The ban sparked international outcry for restricting Muslims’ right to freedom of worship.