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-Islamophobia

Islamophobia: It’s Impact on Social Inclusion:
Bristol Muslim Cultural Society (BMCS) in partnership with The Asian History Project held a conference in December 2005 the theme of which being: 'Islamophobia: It's Impact on Social Inclusion'. The conference was aimed at Media, Employment, Education and Social Policy professionals and featured speakers from around the UK with expertise in the above four areas. There was also a Question & Answer session in the afternoon.

A major event for Bristol, in line with BMCS's social cohesion strategy for the local Muslim community. The presence of nearly 100 professionals from across the strands under discussion was demonstration of a commitment to eradicating Islamophobia and maintaining cohesive communities in our city.

A well-attended conference, titled above, was held in Bristol on the 15th of December 2005, for Professionals in Media, Employment, Education and Social Policy.

In opening the conference, the Leader of the Council, Barbara Janke reiterated the need for the need for this type of forum with what was going on in the community at the moment. She hoped that we could all learn from the day to address the unpleasant issues faced by Youths and other Muslims where there was prejudice in the community.

Farooq Siddique of the BMCS chaired the event. He read out Dawn Primarolo's address. She could not be present due to unavoidable parliamentary business, but her statement read that most people in the UK were tolerant, but we all needed to work together to rid the society of ills such as Islamophobia.

Mr Siddique went on to say that Muslims are at the bottom end of the scale of every social indicator e.g. more Muslims were in prison today than ever before and educational attainment levels had dropped considerably amongst Muslim children.

There were a number of speakers at the event. The first one was Professor Tariq Modood, renowned academic and the Director for the Centre for the Study of Ethnicity and Citizenship. His address was titled 'The Desire for Higher Education Amongst Muslims-a rising curve, the role of Islam'. Findings from one of his studies showed that Islam was appealed to as a source of discipline and a way of life. Islam was about education-acquiring knowledge and sharing that with other people. His study found that boys appealed to Islam to distance themselves from street youth culture. He said that this should be taken into consideration where people feel that Muslims were not assimilated enough. The study found that these young people were assimilated with the same values of the white working class decency, hard work, family ties. He went on to warn against institutions of higher learning that took knee-jerk reactions, targeting Muslims e.g. banning the hijab with the excuse that it would make identification difficult. This kind of picking on people will only alienate them.

Mohammed Evans, the Head of Ethnic Minority Achievement Service, Cardiff City Council gave examples of how Islamophobia - 'Hatred and Fear of Islam'-, manifested itself in school settings. Level 1- Verbal Slurs, Level 2-Avoidance ' I am not playing with him/her' scenarios, Level 3-Discrimination (sometimes not directly linked to Islam, but language, culture etc), Level 4 is Violence and the extreme Level 5 is Murder. On offering Practical steps forward, he spoke about Shared Humanity, Difference and Diversity, Interdependence, Excellence Everywhere, Personal Identity, Concepts of Race, Racism and Racial Justice. Mr Evans also stressed challenges for Muslims. He said there must be Healthy self-criticism, Working towards a unified Fiqh (difference in schools of thought), and working towards unified leadership.

Akmal Asghar from the New Civilization Magazine spoke about 'Islamophobia and the Media'. He said that some people challenge the notion of Islamophobia. There was a documentary recently on TV that said that there was not really a case of Islamophobia, but rather a grievance culture and that Muslims put up a front so that they are not criticised. Newspaper columnists write about Muslims that their way of life is intolerant or they even refer to it as militant. He said that Muslims have been made to feel victimised and as there is no community representation of them in the media, they are becoming disengaged with popular media. Whilst acknowledging that sometimes there is an agenda where sections of the media have preconceived notions about what Islam is, Mr Asghar felt that there is a need for Muslims to take constructive steps to be more informative about their faith. He also felt that Muslim leaders should take on criticisms and be ready to generate dialogue. Muslims need to engage with a wider set to generate outward discussions on Islamophobia.

Beena Faridi from the Islamic Human Rights Commission acknowledged that Islamophobia in Employment is not a new phenomenon, but it has been steadily increasing. She gave good practice examples where some employers have taken up making Muslims part of the solution e.g. a reputable large retailer, designing hijabs for female Muslim staff. She said that employers have to remember that if you cater for employees needs, you'll have more loyal staff.

The last speaker was Yahya Birt, a researcher with the Islamic Foundation. His topic on Integration and Assimilation was listened to with much interest from the audience. He said that we do not need Integration or Assimilation, but a whole new way of thinking of diversity today. Regarding Assimilation, he felt that people were of the opinion that you cannot have a cohesive society without a common culture. The assumption is that it is difficult for groups to get on. Such a monocultural view gives rise to the feeling that if a group remains culturally different, others will not accept them. Mr Birt said that people should be able to live together, even if they have different cultures. He wondered if there was a longing for an idealised past which might never have existed. He went on to say that Assimilation is being dressed up as Integration. The assumptions and charges here are that communities are self-segregating and that there is no common vision. Another charge made since 9/11 is that there are only two ways, the British way and the terrorists' way.

There was an opening address given by Cllr Gary Hopkins to a lively panel discussion in the afternoon chaired by Farooq Siddique.

Mobs Timi-Biu, Co-ordinator of the Bristol Partnership Against Racial Harassment, BPARH, who attended the conference, wrote this report. She commended the Bristol Muslim Cultural Society (BMCS) on a well-planned event and said Bristol should have more public enlightenment events/discussions of this nature as part of the ongoing preventative work against racial harassment.

A well-attended conference, titled above, was held in Bristol on the 15th of December 2005, for Professionals in Media, Employment, Education and Social Policy.

In opening the conference, the Leader of the Council, Barbara Janke reiterated the need for the need for this type of forum with what was going on in the community at the moment. She hoped that we could all learn from the day to address the unpleasant issues faced by Youths and other Muslims where there was prejudice in the community.

Farooq Siddique of the BMCS chaired the event. He read out Dawn Primarolo's address. She could not be present due to unavoidable parliamentary business, but her statement read that most people in the UK were tolerant, but we all needed to work together to rid the society of ills such as Islamophobia.

Mr Siddique went on to say that Muslims are at the bottom end of the scale of every social indicator e.g. more Muslims were in prison today than ever before and educational attainment levels had dropped considerably amongst Muslim children.



 
 

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