European Network Against Racism

10 01 18
  • Name: European Network Against Racism (ENAR)
  • Mission: Combine advocacy for racial equality and facilitate cooperation among civil society anti-racism actors to achieve legal victories at European level and make progress towards equality.
  • Size: 11 staff, 8 volunteers, 5 interns and 150 member organisations
  • Location: Pan-European network with head office in Brussels
  • Key personnel: Director – Michaël Privot, Senior Advocacy Officer – Julie Pascoët, Chair – Amel Yacef, Chairman of ENAR’s advisory council – Bashy Quraishy


The European Network Against Racism (ENAR) has carried out advocacy work and projects, produced reports and policy briefings to combat Islamophobia (anti-Muslim hatred).

It provides a voice to European institutions and member states for NGOs representing victims of Islamophobia, and has recently focused on the rights and voices of Muslim women, often unheard when it comes to crafting European policies. ENAR also creates platforms for allies that have difficulties being heard and supports coalition building.


“What levels of exclusion and stigmatisation are the EU and member state governments waiting for to act politically?” asks Michaël Privot, Director of the European Network Against Racism (ENAR).

“This is a chance for the EU to become a champion in the fight against Islamophobia.”

Michaël Privot was commenting on the pervasive discrimination many Muslims continue to experience across Europe.

The EU Fundamental Rights Agency’s report, published in September 2017, surveyed over 10,500 people who identified themselves as Muslim in 15 member states.

The researchers found that over the past five years almost one in three Muslims felt they had been discriminated against when looking for work, but that only 12% had actually reported these cases of discrimination.

Moreover, 42% of respondents who had been stopped by the police over the last year said this happened because of their migrant or ethnic minority background.

ENAR was set up in 1998 to ensure anti-racist NGOs had a voice in Brussels. It was formed from a pan-European network of anti-racism organisations with a head office in Brussels, and today it voices any concerns about racism and discrimination to EU decision makers, and monitors any developments that may need action.

Joining ENAR is simple for organisations that are involved in the fight against discrimination: there is a website form to fill, a fee to pay and the application needs to be approved by the board of directors.

Julie Pascoët

Julie Pascoët, a senior advocacy officer for ENAR who spearheads the effort against Islamophobia, says the organisation is very aware that EU law and policies implemented by member states can have a huge impact on the situation of Muslims on the ground.


“Our objective is to ensure Islamophobia is recognised politically and that policies combating Islamophobia are adopted – the first step is recognition of the issue,” says Julie Pascoët.

ENAR was one of the first networks to tackle the issue of anti-Muslim hatred. The team began its work around 2005, due to the efforts of a very active member called Bashy Quraishi from Denmark.

The advocacy work now involves interacting with EU institutions on a daily basis and building a relationship with the European Parliament and Commission.

After the attacks in Paris which claimed 130 lives and injured over 300, NGOs reported the toxic environment and backlash against the Muslim community to ENAR. The Secretariat decided to publish a briefing to highlight the different incidents of anti-Muslim hatred post-attack.

Because of the antisemitic component in the Paris attacks – a Jewish supermarket was also targeted – and the high level of violent antisemitic incidents throughout Europe, the Secretariat decided to include both Islamophobia and antisemitism in its briefing.

Julie says that, beyond being very relevant and necessary, this was strategic, and ENAR pushed for both forms of racism to be equally addressed while recognising their specificities.

The briefing and advocacy started around the consequences of the attacks; invited more talks and exchanges on the issue within the European Parliament; and in late 2015 brought about the European Commission’s first EU Colloquium on Fundamental Rights, dedicated to preventing antisemitism and anti-Muslim hatred in Europe.

The European Commission also appointed its first coordinator for anti-Muslim hatred.

“It’s not a high level political representative but an officer of the European Commission. They make sure the issue is mainstreamed, they’re a contact point for civil society on the issue and link with the political level of the Commission when urgent matters arise,” says Julie.

Apart from pure advocacy work, ENAR regularly publishes reports and runs campaigns on issues dealing with discrimination. For the last two years, it has run a project, Forgotten Women, which documents the impact of Islamophobia on women across Europe and seeks to build alliances between anti-racist and women’s rights movements.

Through national roundtables, workshops, social media, local project funding and a European symposium, the team explores intersectional discrimination – the overlapping and interdependent systems of disadvantage created by the interconnected nature of categorisations such as religion, race and gender – that Muslim women face.

ENAR has also begun to hold meetings with partners in the Netherlands and Belgium to explore legal ways to support Muslim women, after the European Court of Justice ruled on the headscarf in the workplace earlier this year. The court did not ban the wearing of headscarves and other religious symbols, but did allow businesses to prohibit it under certain conditions.

The ENAR team is now exploring how it can mitigate the negative impact for headscarf-wearing women and will push the European Commission to issue further guidelines to member states to ensure the conditions outlined in the decision are respected.

ENAR also worked with a legal team to explore how the work conditions of Muslim women could be improved under gender grounds rather than religious. While the latter is used more often, Julie says the anti-discrimination laws protecting against sexism tend be more protective and that Muslim women experience multiple types of discrimination, so shouldn’t limit themselves to one legal type of protection only.


When it came to the Forgotten Women project and helping Muslim women in legal cases, Julie says they tried to find allies and collaborate with feminist movements but were not always successful. Some even opposed their work.

“They didn’t want to talk about Islamophobia and Muslim women because they consider this to be first and foremost a religious problem,” says Julie. “Even though we’re talking about human rights – women getting attacked on the street because of their headscarf, getting insulted, getting discriminated against because they are women. But it is sometimes difficult to have them understand that.”

Courtesy of ENAR

The problematic understanding some organisations have of Islamophobia often makes ENAR’s work more difficult. When it got involved in planning the colloquium on antisemitism and anti-Muslim hated, even the word “Islamophobia” had to be replaced because of controversies surrounding the term.

ENAR had to push hard to ensure relevant organisations were invited to discuss the issue. Julie says it is increasingly common for organisations that work on Islamophobia to be delegitimised and accused of being “Islamist” or part of the Muslim Brotherhood, and ENAR had to push the relevant actors forward to ensure they weren’t ignored.

“In some countries like France, when you do a lot of work on Islamophobia, you can be seen badly by the government, especially in the counterterrorism context. Some think people fighting Islamophobia are actually encouraging radicalism or supporting the Islamisation of society,” says Julie.

Another difficulty according to Julie is that Muslims are increasingly being viewed under a security angle. Even in some European institutions, Muslims tend to be seen more as a potentially problematic population, rather than as a group whose human rights can be violated.

This approach has consequences for the way counter-terrorism legislation has been designed and implemented recently. ENAR advocates for human rights assessments of counter-terrorism and counter-radicalisation policies that have a disproportionate impact on people perceived as Muslims.

While ENAR pushed for the first coordinator on anti-Muslim hatred to be assigned, Julie said that even then there was too much focus on foreign funding of Muslim organisations rather than on discrimination and racism. She attributes the issue to the coordinator being an internal officer of the office on fundamental rights, rather than appointed specifically for his expertise on anti-Muslim hatred.

Moving forwards

Julie notes that the lack of specialist knowledge can be fixed in European institutions and civil society, and that there have been positive changes as a result. The anti-Muslim hatred coordinator regular meets with NGOs working on Islamophobia to ensure the relevant issues are pushed forward and this has increased the attention on anti-Muslim hatred at an EU policy level.

On the European Action Day Against Islamophobia, the Commissioner issued a statement for the first time on anti-Muslim hatred.

Another first was the Commission organising a dialogue with Muslim students where they discussed, among other topics, anti-Muslim hatred.

While impact is difficult to measure in the long term, and it is hard to measure how much policy progress is solely due to ENAR’s work, Julie says finding a way to measure impact is one of its top priorities.

Another result of ENAR’s work is that it is viewed as a key actor on the issue of intersectionality and how different types of racism can create layered forms of discrimination.

“I think the project we did on Forgotten Women allowed us to become an authority on the subject and build a coalition of stakeholders on the specific issue of the racism and sexism faced by women of ethnic and religious minorities,” says Julie.

She adds that the topic of intersectionality is now becoming better known at European level and this year’s colloquium in November focused on women’s rights. ENAR was invited to speak around the issue.

While ENAR still has problems creating alliances with some mainstream feminist movements, there are an increasing number of minority and women led organisations that are reaching out.

“They didn’t feel represented in the mainstream movements so they created their own feminist organisations,” says Julie.


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