Europe’s largest annual human rights conference, organised by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), takes place in Warsaw from 21 September to 2 October 2015. Jawaab presented a statement around the issue of Islamophobia and how we can move forward in tackling this.
As part of Jawaab’s work we have been working with young people from across Europe and predominantly in the UK on the issue of racism, hate speech and Islamophobia. Our work has come under constant barriers and struggles due to two main aspects: The first being, there is no state defined definition of Islamophobia. A official recognition of Islamophobia will help organisations to lobby for change and help authorities to protect citizens suffering from faith based hate crimes. The second is the Preventing Violent Extremism (also known as Prevent) agenda and how it is curtailing the basic civil rights of Muslims, in particular Muslim youth.
Whilst we appreciate it is the government’s responsibility to protect citizens from terrorism, the current Prevent policy lacks focus. The lack of targetted approach and lack of clarity has led to a deeper climate of Islamophobia where anti-Islam rhetoric has been normalised in the mainstream and growth of Muslim youth has been curtailed. Counter Terrorism guidance has led to the entire Muslim population which is diverse in itself in terms of ethnicity, sect and practice being viewed through the lens of terror and radicalisation. This has become especially apparent in the recent questioning of pupils and university students when they share opinions or engage with debates in learning environments.
We are asking for the state to work with genuine grassroots organisations like ourselves in order to create an authentic and representative definition of Islamophobia. The Muslim community, especially youth should not be treated as a suspect community. This only further stigmatizes and alienates the Muslim community contravening the betterment of the wider society.
Jawaab is currently awaiting for a reply to the statement.