Three countries are engaged in the COPE project - Austria, Poland and Slovakia. The contexts regarding Islam and Muslims in all of these three countries are different. What connects them then? Their determination to foster a better understanding and improve the dialogue between Muslim and non-Muslim communities.
Compared to Poland and Slovakia, Austria has a higher percentage of Muslim population. While Austria is perceived to be one of the best countries to live in, this does not apply to all equally. Muslims are more visible in the society and with their visibility comes also a higher incidence of anti-Muslim racism cases. Although it may be clear for many, there are still a lot of people that don’t recognize the term and concept behind “anti-Muslim racism”. These include the media and politicians. Therefore, NGOs in Austria try to establish the term of “anti-Muslim racism” in order to improve the situation for people that face it. For more information we recommend the first COPE Podcast episode on anti-Muslim racism in Austria.
The number of Muslims in Poland is marginal (approximately 0.1% of population), which makes them hardly visible in the public sphere. The official hate crime statistics regarding incidents where Muslims were targeted continue to be low. In 2019, the Ministry of Interior and Administration investigated 934 cases involving hate crime. Of those, 36 were committed based on the target’s Muslim faith and 58 hate crimes based on the target’s ethnicity that might be linked to Islam (Arabs, Chechens, Turks).
Similarly to Poland, Muslims in Slovakia constitute an almost invisible minority. The actual size of the Muslim minority is not known but is often estimated at 5,000 members. Due to its small size and arguably also due to the unfavourable attitude of the establishment, to this date Islam is not a registered religion in Slovakia. Consequently, Slovakia remains the only country in the EU which does not have an official mosque. Majority of Slovaks do not have an opportunity to meet Muslims in their daily life, feeding their fear and suspicion of the unknown. The relative anonymity of the Muslim community has slightly subsided after 2015 as efforts were made within the community to provide more positive stories about the lives of their members. Muslims however remain mostly unrepresented in the public, political or cultural life.