There is an urgent need to inform people more about Islamophobia, with a structured approach to it. This is the main conclusion of the first Islamophobia forum, which took place in Brussels on Sunday. It was held by several civil organizations. Similar initiatives will be held in Paris, London, and Amsterdam. “Islamophobia affects hundreds of lives every day, and we must take it seriously”, says Michel Privot from the European Network Against Racism (ENAR), one of the organizations taking part. The forum’s participants are divided into three groups working on three areas considered priorities: politics, media and education. “There is work to be done in these three areas to increase awareness”, Michel Privot sums up. “We are aware that Islamophobia is also linked to the identity crisis that Europe is going through, but we cannot ignore it. In politics, we have noticed initiatives forbidding public agents from wearing religious signs, which clearly affects Muslims and can therefore be seen as direct discrimination”.
The forum also looked at speeches on secularism in education and the veil ban. “Many young Muslim women feel stigmatized”, says Michel Privot. “Teachers need to be better informed on this problem. More generally, people feel the school curriculum is too “Eurocentric”, and doesn’t much look at the histories of other continents and other religions, for example”.
The media does not escape criticism. “Journalists revert to stereotypes too quickly when it comes to Muslims. As organizations, we can help, for example by drawing up a list of contacts or experts for the media”, Michel Privot concluded.