22 September, 2014

Seminar “Educational Responses to Islamophobia in Europe”

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Category: European Action Day, Islamophobia, Religious Intolerance, Report
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thinkWritten by Mustafa Gündoğdu

The No Hate Speech Movement organized a seminar titled “Educational Responses to Islamophobia and Intolerance against Muslims in Europe” in Budapest between 17 and 19 September 2014, just several days before the European Action Day against Islamophobia and Religious Intolerance. As an online activist of the movement, I had this great opportunity of taking part in this fruitful seminar.

Thanks to the input from experts, the participants could view the growing problem of Islamophobia from academic and practical perspectives. Besides, the diversity of the participants’ backgrounds and a well-designed programme allowed for an in-depth analysis of the issue in various aspects, better understanding of its basic causes, learning about relevant educational methods, and developing and suggesting new ideas and initiatives.

Media was, of course, seen as one of the basic reasons for the unfavourable image of the Muslims in non-Muslim Europeans’ minds. It was agreed by almost everyone that the profile of Muslim men and women imposed through movies, magazines, cartoons, etc. led to the formation of that “dark” image of Islam and Muslims, which in return triggers hatred towards Muslims. When this influence of media is combined with other factors that cause any other type of racism, xenophobia and intolerance, the issue becomes even more problematic, sometimes resulting in putting into words or action of such hatred.

But what can be done to combat this “discrimination in mind”? Should we fight against those people or groups that have this negative perception of Muslims in their minds? Maybe confronting them one by one would not be a good idea as this could lead to an adverse effect and make them even more Islamophobic. What about trying to change this perception through creativity and media activism? We can simply use images, videos or anything else that would attract attention and make people re-think. In other words, we can create our own anti-Islamophobic tools or use the existing ones, just as the “Islamophobia industry” uses its hatred-spreading tools. And social media is a good way to do it!

Some good examples of such tools were presented in the seminar. Humour is one of the instruments that can be used. It is a good way to deliver our message without making people bored or uninterested. This trailer for the documentary film “The Muslims are Coming” is a good example:

Or we can use simple, yet thought-provoking images. And here is a good example for it:

https://www.facebook.com/nohatespeech/photos/a.126649537522625.1073741830.118817804972465/299845973536313/?type=1&theater

Don’t you think that these examples sound to be much more effective than just warning Islamophobic people that they do not have the right to be Islamophobic?

But such activism is not enough by itself. As in all types of combat against racism and discrimination, education plays a vital role in fighting Islamophobia, too. This seminar also showed how non-formal education can be used to make young people more tolerant towards different religions. The use of educational activities from “Bookmarks – A manual for combating hate speech online through human rights education” (developed by the Council of Europe under the No Hate Speech Movement) in the seminar was inspiring for me and also for other participants in terms of having a better idea of how education can be an effective tool in reaching our target. So, another thing we can do is to use or to promote the use of non-formal education in our struggle.

In brief, the seminar basically presented two ways to combat Islamophobia: media (or online) activism and education. The success of the fight against Islamophobia depends on us, human rights activists, volunteers, youth workers, educators, journalists and anyone else desiring a more peaceful Europe and a more peaceful world. And for this purpose, we should of course motivate more people, more communities and more organizations to pay attention to this growing problem.


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