Euro Muslim groups adopt new pact

Brussels, Belgium - Sunni Muslim groups from across Europe adopted a charter aimed at easing tensions with non-Muslims amid growing concerns about radicalisation.

The 26-point European Islamic Charter stresses moderation, equality between men and women and rejects violence and terrorism, while urging Muslims to "integrate positively" into society.

The Brussels-based Federation of Islamic Organisations in Europe (FIOE), which drove the initiative, said over 400 Muslim groups from 28 countries from Russia to Spain had signed.

An FIOE spokesman said the signatories represented between a quarter and a fifth of Europe's Muslim population.

"The aim of this initiative was to elaborate a common basic position on Islam in Europe, more precisely the contribution of Islam to modern Europe," the FIOE said in a statement.

The charter aimed to promote active participation of Muslims in society and better recognition of their citizenship based "on justice, equality of rights, respect for difference", it said.

Analysts say some 15-20 million Muslims live in Western Europe, up to five percent of the region's total population, although exact numbers are difficult to establish as Western censuses rarely ask about faith.

Islam, the world's second biggest religion after Christianity, is widely seen as Europe's fastest growing faith.

A majority of immigrants in most Western European states are Muslim.

Total numbers of Muslims in the region are projected to double by 2025 or sooner, amid growing concern among non-Muslims about radicalisation, particularly among Muslim youth.

FIOE president Chakib Benmakhlouf said it was up to Muslim groups to spread the message in their respective countries.

"We are proud of this first and unique initiative to commit the European Muslim community to the construction of a common Europe and a united society where everybody can live and open out in peace, respecting his duties and being respected in his rights," he said in a statement.

Organisers said the groups that adopted the charter mainly represented the majority Sunni branch of Islam rather than the smaller Shi'ite branch and other minority groups.

Mario Mauro, an Italian vice president of the European Parliament, welcomed the charter, saying it could "offer a basis for a better and broader dialogue between the Muslim community and the political world in Europe".

British Liberal Democrat Member of the European Parliament Baronness Ludford told the meeting she "hugely welcomed" the initiative, but said there was room for debate on the charter's stress on the importance of the family and that freedom should be exercised "in accordance with moral values".

The European Union's executive Commission gave a cautious welcome, saying it was open to dialogue with all religious groups that wanted to discuss "European values".