Are Muslims discriminated against globally as a group? This study from the Centre for Research on Inequality, Human Security and Ethnicity reviews inequalities among groups (horizontal inequalities, HIs) of Muslims/non-Muslims within developed and developing countries and between Muslim and non-Muslim countries. It finds that Muslims are systematically disadvantaged across many dimensions. In countries in Europe, Asia and Africa, where Muslims are in a minority they have a worse socio-economic position than non-Muslims, less political representation and their culture is often given less respect. This is also true in comparisons of Palestine and Israel, and of Muslim countries taken as a group as against non-Muslim ones. Furthermore, inequalities faced by Muslims in one part of the world may mobilise Muslims in other parts of the world. Inequalities need to be addressed within countries and between them, both politically and in terms of socioeconomic and cultural status.
There are global as well as national dimensions to horizontal inequalities. If a group has a shared identity that crosses nations, mobilisation can occur because of such HIs, in a similar way to the mobilisation that sometimes occurs in reaction to national HIs. To the extent that a group has strong affiliations with others in the group elsewhere in the world, then horizontal inequalities in one part of the world can be a cause of grievance and of mobilisation elsewhere. In the case of Muslims in the world today, there are clear global inequalities and global networks. Where there are political as well as socio-economic inequalities and inequalities of cultural status then mobilisation is more probable.
Policies designed to reduce national inequalities in socio-economic, political and cultural status dimensions are fairly well developed. They have been adopted (with varying degrees of success) in a number of multiethnic or multi-religious societies, although rarely with respect to Muslim groups. Few policies have been adopted in developed countries beyond anti-discriminatory laws.
- It is not the poorest members of the community who mobilise most easily, but the more educated and articulate.
- A shared identity sufficient to make common cause on some issues does not mean the group is homogeneous, but in certain circumstances the Muslim identity trumps non-Muslim local identities.
- Whether mobilisation occurs depends on: the extent to which a national group faces similar discrimination, the strength of connections across national groups, global attacks on the common identity and the nature of leadership.
- The entire group is never mobilised – a powerful minority is mobilised.
If global HIs raise the risk of conflict, as national ones do, then significant policy implications follow. It is important to reduce HIs in each dimension. The requirements in the global case are greater, however, since reduction in HIs is needed both within and between countries. Implications include the following:
- While power is not something that can be painlessly redistributed, some of the symptoms (such as the systematic use of military power by the West against Muslim nations) could be alleviated.
- Representatives of Muslim states could be incorporated to a greater extent into global decision-making.
- To do this effectively requires including genuine representatives of the various strands of Muslim thinking, not simply token people with a Western perspective.
- The Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) could be a source of greater empowerment if it had greater recognition from the rest of the world, regular meetings, recommendations and action by the OIC itself.
- For national empowerment of particular groups, success is likely to require organisation and claims by the groups themselves, and recognition and respect from the rest of the world.
- Significant changes are needed in Europe as well as in developing coutnries.
- It is important to change not only formal rules, but also informal norms and behaviour.