Putting a stop to Islamophobia with MEND
Last week Shahab from MEND came in to the Academy to deliver a powerful assembly on Islamophobia and what we can do to stop it.
The assembly started off with Shahab asking the students where they get their information and news from. He listed newspapers, the internet, social media and parents as some of the ways that we can get our information, and explained that this also shaped how we digested the information. The fewer places you look, the fewer opinions you see and the more likely your opinions are to reflect those.
This is why many people are racist or islamophobic, because they aren't getting their information from enough places. This narrow view can lead to close-mindedness, which is the enemy of unity and fairness. Shahab used the example of Ahmed, the high-school student in America whose school science project, a clock, was mistaken for a bomb. Many people argued that if Ahmed had been white, this wouldn't have happened.
Shahab said that stories like this are very important in highlighting how racism and islamophobia can go undetected and unchallenged. He also showed the students how the overwhelmingly positive and supportive response to Ahmed from all over the world was a sign that attitudes are starting to change. Ahmed even went on to be invited to the White House by Barack Obama!
Standing up and saying something when things like this happen is the only way that we can start to stop racism and islamophobia. The students were shown videos of real life events created by the Crown Prosecution Services to show some islamophobic attacks in the UK. One video showed a shopkeeper being harassed and called names by a group of school girls, and the other showed a girl being physically assaulted, called names and having her Hijab pulled off by bullies in her school.
Shahab asked the students to think about how they would have felt if that had been them. He also asked them to think about why the bullies had done it. By asking the students to think about the attacks in whole, the students began to gain an understanding for both sides. Finally when asked what the students would have done had they been there to witness, the response was incredible. Every student and teacher said they would have done what was right, helped the victims and stood up for what they believe is right.
Now ofcourse, it's easier said than done. But through assemblies and workshops like this we hope to show our students that through our co-operative values like solidarity and equality, we really can make a positive difference in this world.
Thank you very much to Shahab for coming in and talking to our students, and we hope to work with you again soon!