Following the Massacre of 69 people by Anders Breivik on July 22nd in Norway, analysts and commentators from across Europe described this appalling event as a wake up call for Europe to stop the intolerance, racism and hatred developing across Europe aimed at Muslim communities. There is plenty of evidence that the Far Right is growing in its influence and that Islamophobia is increasingly regarded as an acceptable part of the European landscape.
New far right groups continue to emerge – in Denmark recently an inaugural meeting of Europe wide network of Defence League was held. In Belgium ‘Women against Islamisation – another pan European network was set up. More links are being set up with the Evangelical and conservative Far Right groups between the US and Europe. Far Right organisations are rapidly forming alliances throughout Europe and the US promoting an anti Islamic agenda.
What did we do?
Jawaab in partnership with Soul of Europe, a peace-building organisation aims to create a network of campaigners on Islamophobia across Europe. The Network aimed to attract Muslim and non-Muslims between the ages of 20 and 35. The members involved are from London (UK), Paris (France), Tblisi (Georgia), St Gallen (Switzerland) and Ruhr Westphalia (Germany).
The project had three main phases to it.
- Research: each of the 5 cities were researched to identify young activists, organisations and institutions that were already committed to challenging Islamophobia. The Research also identified in each city a mentor who gave his/her support to the project and young activists.
- Reflection: before organising a gathering bringing activists and mentors together, we needed some time to get to know the situation on the ground in each of the city, the activists areas and what they required help on. British and German partners met at Haus Villigst (venue for the gathering in Dortmond) to review progress, together with some representatives from the participating cities.
- The Gathering: took place in September 2013, it provided each city to’tell their stories’ – what they have achieved, the problems they have encountered and possibilities for the future. The gathering was key for sharing and learning cross generations. Mentors shared their experiences and learning from campaigning in the late 60’s whilst the younger group shared digital campaigning skills and how to utilise social media platforms.
Jawaab and Soul of Europe aim to work together to support the young activists in each city through mentoring and project support. All members will now take action in creating localised grassroots campaigns tackling Islamophobia. Jawaab and Soul of Europe are looking to host the next gathering in 2015.