S&D appoints Special Representative for EU Muslims

Afzal Khan [L] [European Parliament]

Socialists & Democrats chief Gianni Pittella has appointed UK MEP Afzal Khan (Labour) as his Special Representative to Muslim Communities. EURACTIV Greece reports.

According to International Organization for Migration and UNHCR estimates, around one million migrants and refugees had arrived in 2015, three to four times more than in 2014.

The distribution and integration of refugees have triggered controversies among member states, offering fertile ground for xenophobic movements to grow.

>>Read: Fico: EU’s migration policy is ‘ritual suicide’

EURACTIV partner Tagesspiegel reported that the nationalist PEGIDA group in Germany was aiming to widen its reach, with demonstrations planned in 14 different countries around Europe at the beginning of February.

In addition to that, Wil van Gemert, Deputy Director Operations at Europol, told the Greece’s Kathimerini today (26 January) that jihadists have created a corps of special militants “for deadly attacks in Europe”.

>>Read: Europe must accept more refugees, UN tells regional leaders

“Between 20% and 30% of some 5,000 European citizens who joined the terrorist organization Islamic State have returned to the European Union,” according to Europol official.

The mission

Europe’s Muslim population currently stands at 6.5%.

EURACTIV was informed that the new Special Representative will have a double objective: facilitate the social inclusion of second and third generations of Muslims in the EU, as well as take initiatives for the integration of the newcomers fleeing war zones in the Middle East and Africa.

European Socialists are focused on both goals, saying that they should be achieved simultaneously.

A number of foreign fighters who traveled to Syria belonged to a second and third generation of European Muslims descended from immigrants, and were already EU citizens.

“They were marginalized and we have to bring them back to us,” an S&D source said.

Regarding the new refugees, the Socialists & Democrats intend to forge a strategy that will help them share the EU’s values and principles.

An asset

Afzal Khan was born in Pakistan, and immigrated to the UK as a child.

“For generations, Muslim communities have contributed to creating the rich mosaic that is Europe today. As our generation faces unprecedented security and coexistence challenges, it is our responsibility to find innovative solutions to problems by working together,” Khan told EURACTIV.

He continued, saying that he has already worked with British Muslim communities.

“I know how active the society already is, especially on tackling extremism and fostering coexistence […] As politicians, we must tap into this resource. Europe’s communities are an asset in our fight against terrorism and xenophobia in particular,” he stressed.

“At the end of this vigorous dialogue, we will issue a report on the state of Muslims in Europe, with a review of best practices and methods deployed.”

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