What do we do on Monday morning?
Mainstream media is relentless in fuelling the Far Right’s portrayal of Islam, so much so that its rhetoric is part of the way many people think and feel about Muslims, particularly those who have no contact with them.
The rhetoric is dangerous because it endorses the ignorance, prejudice, and fear which surfaces on the streets, against women, in schools, and at work. Islamophobia inevitably manifests itself locally.
Grass roots activities are locally based. Many people are fed up with conventional politics, disillusioned, angry and bitter. Communities are beginning to get organised, shaping their own futures, tackling local problems and networks through social media.
There can be no real participation unless power from the centre has been devolved; and there is no real power unless there is participation.
Local groups tackle local problems. This means organisation, and funding. The Labour party talks well about decentralising, but it will remain talk unless funding is made available with as few strings attached as possible. Here you can read how to building trust in a relationship.
It is in this environment that Islamophobia has to be challenged. Ideally Muslims should, and in some cities are, already part of these grass roots activities. It should be acceptable that they participate as UK citizens.
I am not a Muslim so I can only guess how difficult this involvement maybe for some, particularly for older people. It is understandable to remain in your own community and not venture out. But at least there needs to be conversations and discussion within Muslim communities.
What then would a grass roots movement to interrupt and remove Islamophobia look like? What do you have to do if you want to take steps in the direction, with others?
There is a vast literature on the following 11 points. These are just headings.
- Its necessary to be particular: ask the question: ‘what is going on here?’ Take an X ray of a community, and find out what is happening. Stories are as important as statistics. This is called analysis.
- Once a problem is identified, look for allies, and possible partners, people, and organisations who will stand should to shoulder with you.
- Potential allies can include those academics who are committed, especially if they are prepared to learn.
- Do not forget faith communities: not the fundamentalist variety, but those who are prepared to work with you.
- Work out what solidarity means in your situation. Social media is an essential tool.
- Seek those who have done or who are doing this work; no need to reinvent the wheel.
- Remember Islamophobia is a European problem, not just one for the UK. Create active networks.
- As a project emerges look for help, if needed, for development of the project. In your planning make sure there is the possibility of one modest success and make sure to celebrate it. Any excuse for a party.
- Decide how to deal with spoilers. They will surface quickly once your proposals are known. This is difficult. Look around for stories of those who have taken on the Far Right.
- Keep an eye open for other grass roots activities: they could be your partners, visit us.
- Take time for reflecting: the art of preparing for action, and taking a closer look at our frameworks for interpreting experience. This kind of work is not a quick fix. Be ready for the long haul. The art of reflection is rarely given enough due. It needs to be learnt and practised. It has been a tool unique to the Soul of Europe’s modus operandi.
Director of the Soul of Europe.
Donald has many years of experience in establishing projects. If you would like to know more please contact him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com