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EU Muslims 'must integrate fully'
By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard in Brussels
THE European Union's 10 million Muslims must accept basic civic values if they want to live in the EU, Europe's anti-discrimination chief said yesterday.
Anna Diamantopoulou, the European Commissioner in charge of social affairs, said that Muslim communities were not entitled to do as they pleased in Europe and gave warning that the abuse of women's rights would not be tolerated.
"We must be very clear, there are fundamental values in our societies and, if somebody participates in these societies, they must respect our values," she said. "If they don't, it's going to be very difficult for us to co-exist. "We have a rule of law and a respect for individual human rights that must be respected by all. It's not acceptable for a Muslim girl not go to a normal school or for her to be exempted from going to school."
Mrs Diamantopoulou, 42, a Greek socialist known for her crusading views on women's rights, said the EU had a duty to work harder to integrate Muslims into the mainstream and to lift them out of poverty. "We see some very extreme social attitudes, such as genital mutilation, that they bring here and we cannot accept it," she said. "In Britain alone we had over 3,000 cases of this reported in 1999." She is pushing for a change in EU foreign policy to penalise countries that condone brutal abuses, such as stoning girls to death for adultery.
"We're trying to make development aid conditional on the respect for women's human rights," she said. "There are crimes against women all over the world. There are places where they kill girl babies. We must intervene to stop it."
Her comments signal a shift in the European Commission's views on multiculturalism. Until recently, it was considered taboo for senior officials to make any public criticism of minority customs but it now appears that liberal feminism is starting to gain the upper hand over the multiculturalist lobby.
Mrs Diamantopoulou said it would be a mistake to rely on heavy-handed use of EU law to improve the lot of Muslim women in Europe. "We cannot legislate the personal life between a father and a daughter," she said. "But somebody must defend the rights of young girls."
Article 13 of the Amsterdam Treaty gives the EU power to "take action to prevent discrimination based on sex", which could provide the basis for much tougher laws to deal with minority groups that repress women. The new Charter of Fundamental Rights, which is gradually acquiring legal force through rulings by the European Court of Justice, also clashes head-on with attitudes towards women in some Muslim communities.
-- Swissrose (firstname.lastname@example.org), November 10, 2001
-- K (email@example.com), November 11, 2001.