_ Preamble - We are activists, intellectuals and ordinary citizens, many of us Muslim, who are committed to the successful integration of Europeans of immigrant or Muslim backgrounds. We believe that the path to peaceful co-existence among our increasingly diverse communities lies in upholding the values of universal human rights, freedom and democracy that have secured Europe’s postwar peace and prosperity. We feel the need to join our voices together in affirming those values as the basis for ensuring that Europeans of immigrant or Muslim backgrounds enjoy and value their equal rights and participate fully in society.
- We are individuals before we are members of any group. There is an increasing tendency to identify Europeans with immigrant backgrounds primarily by their religion. We are united in our concern that doing so reduces them to being members of a group and dilutes their uniqueness as individuals. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights as well as the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union place respect for the individual at their core. We believe that securing individual rather than group rights is a fundamental principle that must govern our approach to integration. The principle of equality regardless of race, religion, ethnic origin, gender or sexual orientation is not compatible with calls for separate rights in matters of religion and culture in public life in Europe.
- Integration must emphasise both rights and responsibilities. We are committed to the full inclusion of Europeans of immigrant and Muslim backgrounds, with the same rights, responsibilities and opportunities as all other Europeans. We do not accept the formation of parallel communities that reject the authority of the state. In this spirit, we believe it is essential that immigrants learn the language of the country in which they reside, respect its democratic values and comply with the laws of the land. For these values to be shared, they must be taught widely and consistently.
- We must combat intolerance while protecting freedom. We take an unequivocal stand against hate speech and dehumanising generalisations about the “other.” Anti-Muslim, anti-Semitic, racist and homophobic stereotypes, harassment and violence must be fought, as well as hatred against the West, incitements to “holy” war, and murder in the name of religion or tradition. At the same time, we must uphold freedom of speech and freedom of thought. Open discussion about cultural differences and the role of religion in society cannot be stifled by fears of offending. We staunchly support and defend the right of every individual to choose his or her beliefs and lifestyle – including the right not to believe.
- We will not accept practices that are contrary to the founding principles of the European Union. We reject all forms of coercion and violence within and outside the family which violate the individual’s freedom of choice and equal rights – in particular honour killings, domestic violence, female genital mutilation, forced marriages and conversions and polygamy, We reject any form of segregation of men and women, or boys and girls. We seek to protect the freedom of children in developing their own personality and beliefs as a result of meeting other young people and participating in regular social activities.
- The ultimate authority in legal matters must be national judicial systems designed to express the will of the people while protecting the equal rights of the individual. All citizens and residents, regardless of religious or ethnic background, must be guaranteed equal access and recourse to the civil and criminal court systems. Extenuating cultural or religious circumstances should never be an excuse for the commission of crimes that violate fundamental individual rights and freedoms. We also reject religious law as a parallel system of law – the primary law of the land must always be endorsed through a democratic process.
We call on all Europeans to join us in working to support integration as the basis for cultivating acceptance and tolerance among us. We urge policymakers and officials in Brussels, our national capitals and in our local communities to partner with us. In the face of the increased polarisation and cultural and religious tensions in Europe today, it is more important than ever that we emphasise the dignity of the individual as our common foundation.