I would like to wish peace, health and prosperity to the whole Muslim community across Europe as you celebrate the Islamic New Year.
Allow me also to take this opportunity to convey a message about the European Union we want to live in, together.
Europe has been a home to Muslims for hundreds of years, and they have contributed greatly to the development of our culture, architecture, academia, arts and sciences and politics. Europe is a diverse continent, and so are all of our communities. This is part of what makes us what we are as Europeans; that despite the challenges we have faced we finally have learned to live together, and even more, to respect each other’s differences and see it as an enrichment of our continent.
In an age where growing forces seek to divide our communities, it is more important than ever that we continue to be able to see through each other’s eyes, to listen to each other, to embrace our differences while committing to our common fundamental values. Building and buttressing a cohesive and pluralistic society is our collective responsibility.
And we know this is not a given. Hate speech and intolerance are moving from online discourse into episodes of violence in real life. All of these acts are inspired by an ideology that rejects our view of a society based on peaceful pluralism, tolerance and non-discrimination.
Sadly, in recent years, our Muslim communities have also experienced increasing hate speech and intolerance, collectively blamed for terrorism by a few. We are now witnessing heinous attacks against Muslims in Europe and around the world, most horrifically in Christchurch, New Zealand in March. If we do not tackle this challenge head-on we are at risk of facilitating further polarisation and self-exclusion.
We have made some progress in the fight against hate speech online thanks to the Code of Conduct launched in 2016 with the major social media platforms.
The Commission also continues to make dedicated funds available to foster diversity and social inclusion and to tackle racism and discrimination.
If any minority is under threat or attack, the foundations of our European society are also at risk. We must fight to defend our European way of life, for all our diverse communities, to allow us to live together in respect, harmony, and peace. Because Europe, with its cultures, its languages, its fundamental values and its freedoms are home to all Europeans, no matter their creed.
I wish you a happy and peaceful New Year.