Interfaith Symposium Countering Fear and the Rise of Discrimination Hate Speech and Hate Crimes in the UK
Dr. Mozammel Haque
“One conviction was clearly articulated here today and the International Dialogue Centre advocates this conviction as well. No religion tolerates violence, discrimination, or prejudice in its name. On the contrary we are motivated by the conviction that religion is, and must be, part of the solution,” said Mr. Fahad AbualNasr, Director General of the KAICIID, at his closing speech at the One-day International Interfaith Symposium Countering Fear and the Rise of Discrimination, Hate Speech and Hate Crimes in the UK, which was organised by the Islamic Cultural Centre (ICC), London in cooperation with the Vienna-based KAICIID (King Abdullah International Centre for Interfaith Dialogue), held at the Conference Library Hall of the Islamic Cultural Centre, London, on Thursday, 9th of November, 2017.
There were four sessions besides the Opening and Closing sessions. Dr. Ahmad al-Dubayan, Director General of the Islamic Cultural Centre, addressed the Opening Session. After his Opening address, the Symposium started.
Opening speech of Dr. Ahmad al-Dubayan
Dr. Ahmed al-Dubayan in his Opening Speech, addressed the gathering including the diplomats, representatives from different embassies and religious leaders by saying, “Your Excellencies, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, Assalamualaikum wa Rahmatullahe wa Barakatuhu, peace be upon all of you. It is a great honour and privilege for us, here to have together this symposium with you which is very very important.”
He expressed his deep thanks to the Vienna-based KAICIID (King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz International Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue) for Interfaith Dialogue for their really continuous works throughout the world really to have more environment for interfaith for better understanding for dialogue and their activities are really remarkable and their works may be seen in many countries.
Subject or Topic of the Symposium
And its importance
Speaking about the subject or topic to be discussed today, Dr. al-Dubayan mentioned, “Today’s subject or topic which we are going to discuss about and we have many experts, speakers to discuss this, is very very important. It is about many phenomena around us; one of them is Islamophobia, one of them is hate crimes; are they rising or not, and why? And what is the solution? And many other issues; such as: what are the roles of religious leaders, how can we expect from religion really to be a factor for better understanding; not a factor of misunderstanding; among our people.”
Dr. al-Dubayan also said, “Very important also today because the subject we are talking about today is really related to the life of societies everywhere in the world; because we have religions everywhere in the world. We have different communities everywhere in the world. It is also important because it is really related and touches the future. It is important because it is also related to the youth in our communities in the societies.”
Modern technology and the digital technology
Speaking about the modern technology and the digital technology and how it will remove the borders of knowledge among the societies, Dr. Ahmad al-Dubayan mentioned, “Interfaith today is very very important kind of activity. We believe also after this actually the removal of borders of knowledge among the societies within the modern technology, the digital technology. We expect this much of knowledge about others will bring better understanding than differentiation.”
All Religions call for peace and harmony
Speaking about the messages of all religions, the ICC chief maintained, “Religions, all of them of course in their messages call for peace, call for harmony, in one society or different societies; but what we see sometimes is really exactly the opposite. Religions sometimes are used to hate other people or interpreted sometimes to build orders among communities among societies. Now we have new phenomenon where we need more efforts not only from religious leaders, but we need from sociologists, from politicians also; and from religious leaders and any expert who have any knowledge in this field.”
Stereotypes in communities
Speaking about kind of stereotypes in communities, Dr. al-Dubayan mentioned, “We have to really talk about this stereotype that is every community or every people around the world have this kind of stereotypes which of course build through sometimes decades, sometimes even from centuries, like about the old image of Islam in Europe in the old literature especially after the Middle Ages. All these stereotypes must be discussed and we have to really have room to discuss this; to talk about how to educate people and how we study this to bring harmony and peace for everyone.”
Issue of Identity
Speaking about the issue of identity, the ICC Director General said, “The issue of identity is very very important now and I myself think it is really one of the vital issues which may be affect even what we see about the youth when they go to be radical; I think this is one of the manifestations of the issue of the identity. If the person does not belong to the society or feels that he or she does not belong to a society where they live then this is really a problem; that means they are really go to too radical against the society whom they don’t belong.”
“Many things of course they are all related together; as I said sociology is there; religion is there; politics is there and many things are there and management is there sometimes. That’s why we have this symposium together,” said Dr. Al-Dubayan and added, “And that’s why, ladies and gentlemen, you are here today to discuss and talk about this. We have many experts talking today; we have also many penallists going to talk here. They are people of experts, either they work in this field; either they work in religious field or they have made studies about some of these phenomena I have just talked about.”
Concluding his Opening Address, Dr. Al-Dubayan thanks everybody on behalf of the Islamic Cultural Centre as well on behalf of KAICIID. He said, “On behalf of the Islamic Cultural Centre and of course on behalf of KAICIID I would like to welcome you and thank you so much for coming today and being with us today and I am sure, ladies and gentlemen, it is very important. That’s why we open our hearts and then we talk about this. If leaders of the society do not put their hands together I don’t think there will be solution for the future or in the future.”
Session 1: Identifying familiar patterns and situational differences in the UK
The topic of the First session was: Identifying familiar patterns and the situational differences in the UK: Fear and the Rise of Discrimination, Hate Speech and Hate Crimes in the UK. In this session, following questions were looked into and discussed:
- Is it true that hate speech and hate crime is on the rise? How is it manifested, in which shapes and forms?
- What, according to your community, have been the main drivers of fear? Towards whom?
- How has religion, ethnicity or national origin been used to foster fear, feelings of superiority in the lead up to the increase of incidents?
- How has religion been misused to justify discrimination and/or violence in a broad sense and in the UK?
This session was moderated by Renata Nelson, Assistant to the Senior Advisor, KAICIID and the Panellists were Dr. Sayyed Ataollah Mohajerani, Religious Researcher and Writer; Reverend Bonnie Evans-Hills, Dioceson Interfaith Advisor, At Albans, Priest in Charge, Luton; Rev. Alexander Goldberg, Chaplain of Surrey, International Advisor and Director of Programmes University in Surrey and Aysha Esakji, UK the Home Office Counter Extremism.
There was a break for prayer and then the Session 2 started.
Session 2: Role of Religious Leaders and Establishments in Countering Fear and the Rise of Discrimination, Hate Speech and Hate Crimes in the UK
The topic of Session 2 was: The Role of Religious Leaders and Establishments in Countering Fear and the Rise of Discrimination, Hate Speech and Hate Crimes in the UK. Taking into account the background of the increase in hate speech/crimes in the UK, as well as the recent terrorist attacks: the following points were looked into for discussion:
- What are the potential causes within your own community that have led to discriminatory speech/actions or event hate speech/crimes?
- How religious leaders and religious institutions in the UK do to counter these actions?
- What can religious leaders and religious institutions do to try to address the drivers of these feelings and actions?
- What are the responsibilities of the faith community, civil society more broadly, as well as the individual believer in countering hate speech/crimes? How?
In this Session 2, the moderator was Mohammed Abu-Nimer, Senior Advisor, KAICIID and the Panellists were The Archbishop Gregorios of Thyatriara and Great Britain; Rev. Mark Poulson, Secretary for Inter-Religious Affairs to the Archbishop of Canterbury and National Inter-Religious Affairs Adviser for the Church of England; Bhia Sahib Mohinder Singh, Chairman of the Nishkam Group of Charitable Organisations; and Sheikh Dr. Isa Jahangir, the Principal of Islamic College.
There was a lunch break and Prayer time. After that, the Symposium started again.
Session 3: Fostering Social Cohesion
After Lunch and Prayer, the Session 3 on Social Cohesion started, the moderator was Ahmed Shaheed, special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion and Belief. This session was going to look into the following:
- What measures can be taken to build bridges across the gaps that have been created by Brexit, the conflicts abroad, religious extremism, etc?
- What is needed in your community to support these measures?
- Who is needed to support these measures?
- How can we ensure that the most affected communities in the UK benefit from such measures?
Among the speakers in the panel of this session were Commander David Stringer, Metropolitan Police; Ven. Mahinda Deegalle, Professor of Religions, Philosophies and Ethics, College of Liberal Arts, Bath Spa University; Iman Abou Atta, Director of TellMAMA; Krish Raval, Director of Faith in Leadership and the Senior Faith Leadership Programme run in partnership with the University of Cambridge Divinity School programme.
Iman Abou Atta
While speaking in the session, Iman Abou Atta spoke about awareness, multiple factors played in the hate crime. She mentioned majority of the attacks are on the street; physical assault, following Brexit; holistic approach to find out – south Asian background, Turkish women and also Jewish heritage. Reasons are hatred and intolerance.
She said they are working in partnership with police forces; we try to match our data Muslim community and security forces. She also mentioned about backlash internationally terrorist activities – she said we have direct contact with police forces;
She also mentioned younger generation is often attacked; they are the victims.
Summing up: Documentation; outreach in terms of building bridges; trying to facilitate accountability; working with the police; multiple forms and multiple platforms.
Commander David Stringer, Metropolitan Police
Commander Stringer gave statistical figure of current hate crime in London. He said there is rise in hate crime after Brexit. He mentioned British crime services says actual level rising; every kind of hate crime is rising.
He also mentioned women are unreasonably target because they are clearly visible.
Speaking about how to deal with that, he mentioned Criminal Prosecutor Service (CPS) charges. People knew now they will be liable to have significant charges and punishment.
Summing up: Importance of solidarity; universality of values; human rights/equality framework; response to the aftermath and interfaith and intrafaith activities.
Krish Raval, Director of Faith in Leadership
Krish Raval said Xenophobia rise after Brexit; He mentioned to bring people together; to bring forth faith leaders together. He said we encourage pluralism; our answers are to be good; go deep; deep religious;
Summing up: Deep faith is better than shallow faith. Understanding the other faith.
Ven. Mahinda Deegalle, Professor of Religions, Philosophies and Ethics
Mahinda talked about Buddhism and Buddhist community. He mentioned Buddhist community in the United Kingdom is a tiny community; very few people; few temples – Sri Lankan temple.
He said important idea about media came out today but he mentioned media is full of religion in one way or other. When talking about what the religious leaders should do; he said feed the media with right and proper information.
He again said people emphasized the importance of mother. He said religious teachers cannot teach the young people; he emphasized on the importance of the role of parents, mother and father.
Talking about young generation, he said: ask the young participants in the meeting; we are not successful in reaching out to them. Then he talked about alienation.
Summing up: Media is responsible but we have the responsibility. Character forming; Alienation – community.
Session 4: Closing Session
Closing Address by Fahad Abualnasr
Fahad Abualnasr, Director General of KAICIID gave the closing speech. In his closing address on Countering Fear and the Rise of Discrimination, Hate Speech and Hate Crimes in the United Kingdom, he said, we have all heard today, we share a commitment to champion policies that help citizens appreciate diversity as a beneficial pillar of a robust and resilient society.
Speaking about the role The Islamic Cultural Centre London and the International Dialogue Centre in Vienna are playing, Mr. Fahad said these two institutions place the “the greatest importance on inclusive dialogue. Today’s forum has been enriched by the active participation of religious community leaders, representatives of the Metropolitan Police, the Home Office, the academic community and civil society.”
Xenophobia is growing
Mr. Fahad mentioned today’s dialogue revealed plainly that xenophobia is growing. Xenophobia diminishes the rights and the prosperity of citizens in Europe as well in some other parts of the world. This xenophobia is expressed in prejudice against minorities, including religious minorities. In certain cases, here in Europe, religious minorities face discrimination.
Report says at least 25% of the Muslims
surveyed faced daily discrimination
Mr. Fahad also mentioned, “Some forms of religious prejudice are monitored by European Institutions such as the Fundamental Rights Agency. The Agency’s surveys show that some religious minorities in Europe report that they avoid religious events or sites because they fear for their safety. At least 25% of the Muslims surveyed by the Agency faced daily discrimination in the past year. The reported discrimination occurs on the street and in job interviews.”
“Research shows that if we tolerate a public discourse that divides citizens into groups, into ‘us’ verses ‘them’ based on skin colour, religion or ethnicity, then we will harvest conflict and greater prejudice,” he said.
KAICIID promotes dialogue
Mr. Fahad also talked about the KAICIID. He said, “At the International Dialogue Centre, we promote dialogue that addresses existing prejudice and stereotyping. The Centre’s multi-religious Board includes representatives of Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and Judaism. Inclusivity and diversity is at the heart of our identity. The Centre’s interreligious and intergovernmental structure fosters constructive, equal cooperation between religious communities and governments.”
Works of KAICIID
Speaking about the works of the KAICIID, Mr. Fahad mentioned, “We work in four conflict regions in Africa and Asia. We also pilot a project to support the integration of people seeking refuge in Austria to support the people seeking refuge in Europe. Their integration means that religious and cultural identities will be part of coming together with their host countries.”
“Integration is a two-way process between newly arrived and established citizens. In this program, we train women with a migration history to support newly arrived women and girls in pursuing their integration proactively. We will also support the interreligious education of young people seeking refuge. In this work, dialogue helps both sides, the new and the established citizens, acquire a full and accurate understanding of the other,” he explained.
Plan of Action for Religious Leaders and Actors
Speaking about their Plan of Action for Religious Leaders and Actors, Mr. Fahad mentioned, “Together with our partners, the UN Office on the Prevention of Genocide and the Responsibility to Protect, the World Council of Churches, and the Network of Religious and Traditional Peacemakers we are in the midst of implementing the Plan of Action for Religious Leaders and Actor to Prevent Incitement to Violence that Could Lead to Atrocity Crimes.”
Mr. Fahad said, “We have been involved in the Action Plan since its inception in Fez in 2015. It is a remarkable undertaking, because it is the international community’s first initiative that creates a coalition of religious, governmental, intergovernmental, and civil society organizations to prevent and stop incitement.”
KAICIID’s programmes in the Arab world
Talking about some of the programmes in the Arab world, Mr. Fahad briefly mentioned those programmes which may offer good practices in approaching European challenges. He said, “For instance, we support religious educators in institutionalizing interreligious dialogue in the training of future religious leaders. We help facilitate the network with key Christian and Muslim religious higher education institutions in the Arab region to jointly formulate a curriculum to train future religious leaders to use interreligious dialogue. And we are currently training more than 400 young religious leaders to utilize social media to create a dialogue that pushes back against hate speech online.”
Religion is, and must be, part of
the solution – Mr. Fahad
Mr. Fahad also said, “One conviction was clearly articulated here today and the International Dialogue Centre advocates this conviction as well. No religion tolerates violence, discrimination, or prejudice in its name. On the contrary we are motivated by the conviction that religion is, and must be, part of the solution.”
In conclusion, Director General of KAICIID said, “We need to invest in building the capacity of religious community leaders, educators, policy makers and civil society to correct stereotypes and combat prejudice. This is an ethical commitment. It is a commitment to build resilience and respect to build an inclusive, peaceful future.”