EU states should help increase recognition of anti-discrimination laws among Muslims, according to a report in which Malta scored poorly when it comes to awareness.

The lowest awareness levels about anti-discrimination legislation among Muslims are found among those from Sub-Saharan Africa in Malta and Muslims from South-Asia in Italy, figures in a report by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights have shown.

In its report, FRA calls on States to strengthen equality bodies and raise awareness of anti-discrimination laws, targeting groups more likely to be victims of discrimination, such as Muslims.

But despite experiencing widespread discrimination and harassment, FRA’s data also shows that the vast majority of Muslims in the EU have a high sense of trust in democratic institutions.

For FRA director Michael O’Flaherty, the survey results make a mockery of the claim that Muslims are not integrated. “On the contrary, we see a trust in democratic institutions that is higher than much of the general population,” he said.

Among others, the report shows that Muslim respondents in all countries other than Malta identify ethnic origin or immigrant background as the main ground for encountering discrimination.

In Malta, 32 per cent indicate skin colour as the main discrimination ground. This is also mentioned by a quarter of respondents in Greece and by a fifth in Italy – which is expected, as the countries of origin of those surveyed in these countries influence the results.

Overall, two per cent of all Muslim respondents experienced physical violence due to their ethnic or immigrant background in the 12 months before the survey, and five per cent did so in the five years preceding the survey – with variations depending on the country of origin and residence.

Muslim respondents from Asia in Cyprus, and from South Asia in Italy, reported the lowest rates for the 12 months before the survey – close to zero – while the highest rates were reported by Muslim respondents from Sub-Saharan Africa in Germany (eight per cent), Denmark and Malta (seven per cent).

When contacted, director Neil Falzon said Aditus fully shared the report’s main suggestions, particularly on the need of strengthening the legal regime protecting minorities from discrimination in all areas of life.

“We reiterate our concern that many of our clients hesitate to approach enforcement authorities, including the police, mainly due to a lack of trust in the institutions established for their very protection.

“We hope this report can contribute to the government’s efforts at introducing a comprehensive national integration policy that works towards guaranteeing a society where no person suffers discrimination because of their skin colour or religion,” he told this newspaper.

Do Muslims have a strong sense of belonging to their communities?

▪ 76% feel strongly attached to their country of residence.

▪ 53% are citizens of their country of residence.

▪ Muslim respondents’ trust in public institutions is higher than trust among general population.

▪ 92% are comfortable with neighbours of a different religious background.

▪ 48% indicate they would feel totally comfortable with a family member marrying a non-Muslim person.

To what extent do Muslims suffer discrimination?

▪  31% of those seeking work have been discriminated against over the last five years.

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

▪ 27% know of a family member or friend who was, in the year before the survey, insulted or called names because of their ethnic or immigrant background.