The Project MEET stems from the awareness that the issue of Islamophobia is an urgent issue in Europe that must be addressed.
Hate crimes and racist attacks against the Muslim communities have been reported in different European countries, although the majority of episodes are not reported to the authorities (under reporting). Moreover, social media amplifies hate speech thanks to anonymity and the use of fake news and hoaxes. In this framework, Muslim women and girls suffer from intersectional discrimination, based on multiple grounds, namely gender, religion, ethnicity, and when wearing the headscarf they are visibly Muslim and thus even more discriminated.
Significantly, Muslim women are usually monolithically portrayed, failing to consider them as a diverse and heterogeneous group, and the stereotypical image of them, depicted in public discourse as oppressed or dangerous, is a fertile ground for discrimination and violence. Discrimination occurs in access to vocational training and employment, as well as in the workplace. At the same time, Muslim women are the main targets of Islamophobic violence, especially if they wear a headscarf, both offline and online (online hate speech). This may result in the social exclusion of Muslim women and girls in Europe.
The Project MEET – More Equal Europe Together. Preventing Islamophobia against women & girls is co-funded by the Rights, Equality and Citizenship Programme of the European Union and it involves 6 European countries (Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Hungary, Italy and Poland) and 9 partners:
- Fondazione L’Albero della Vita (project coordinator)
- Lab 80 Film
- Partners Bulgaria Foundation
- Pistes Solidaires
- Polish Migration Forum
- Pour La Solidarité
- Progetto Aisha
- Subjective Values Foundation
The Project aims at contributing to the prevention of Islamophobia against women and girls by:
- Empowering key actors both at local and European level to build a culture of tolerance and respect.The need to achieve mutual understanding and dialogue among different stakeholders is essential in ensuring all citizens in a European society, especially the most vulnerable, the access to fundamental rights and equal opportunities.
- Fostering a positive narrative of Muslim women and girls targeting youth and young Leaders. Youth are the key actors able to develop critical thinking and promote the importance of breaking stereotypes.
The project works on multiple levels to create a European society free from discrimination in which obody is left behind due to gender and religious affiliation. It fosters cooperation between public authorities, religious communities, grassroots organizations and youth. In particular, the project works on preventing Muslim hatred deconstructing stereotypes, boosting dialogue and mutual learning. Particular attention has been given to engaging the youth and encouraging their critical thinking. The crucial role of education in nonformal context has been recognised as a milestone to build a welcoming, tolerant and multicultural European society.
The main actions of the project are the following:
- Set-up of Local Observatories on Islamophobia to monitor racism and discrimination acts and to propose action plans to Local Authorities;
- Workshops on video making and debate education to create a pool of young Equity Defenders;
- Advocacy activities through the engagement of European institutions on the enforcement of EU legal framework;
- Spreading a counter narrative campaign to fight Islamophobia against women and girls.
As part of the project’s work package “Step up collective action in Europe”, Local Observatories on Islamophobia, engaging key stakeholders, have been set up in each of the 6 countries with the task of monitoring acts of discrimination and racism against Muslim women and girls. Each of the six LOI met five times and finally produced an action plan to prevent Islamophobia at local level, addressing root causes and proposing concrete steps towards integration and equality for Muslim women and girls, and presented it to local authorities.
A survey on Islamophobia against women and girls has been conducted which will be described in Chapter 2.3. In each partner country, two focus groups have been held, with more than 120 participants in total, to enquire on the level of discrimination suffered by Muslim women and the perception of Muslim women within the society.
In the six partner countries, 13 events have been held with the aim of fostering dialogue and social cohesion among communities. Such events, held both offline and online (due to the pandemic) have been organised as virtual tours, cooking sessions, trips in the mountains, picnics, etc.
At EU level, the project activated an advocacy action towards Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) and key EU stakeholders bringing the discussion, started at local level, to the European one. In particular, some MEPs signed a joint statement committing themselves to the enforcement of EU legal framework and on the promotion of an EU Directive to fill the gap in legal protection from discriminatory acts on the ground of religion, sexual orientation, age and disability in all areas.
As part of the Project’s advocacy action an advocacy toolkit for the prevention of Islamophobia has also been drafted with indications on how to build an advocacy strategy.
Moreover, EU Policy Talks took place in Brussels on September 21st 2021, the European day against Islamophobia, to address future EU policies with key actors.
One of the project’s work package has been dedicated to the prevention of Islamophobia among young people. In each of the six partner countries young people aged 12-18, Muslim and non-Muslim, with the help of experts in film storytelling techniques, and thanks to the women and girls who shared with them their stories and experiences, were encouraged to reflect on the stereotypes and prejudices faced by Muslim women and girls and to create a counter-narrative capable of preventing and combating Islamophobia. The youth took part in video making laboratories and finally produced the episodes of a European web series.
Moreover, in the six countries the youth participated in debate education activities aimed at developing their soft skills and in particular their ability to communicate and to discuss in public. Finally, some of the youth involved in the counter-narrative path and trained on the practise of the debate as a tool for youth participation, have become Equity Defenders, standing against racism and Islamophobia and promoting a positive narrative on social media with their peers.
Furthermore, webinars were organised in the partner countries for the capacity building of youth organisations, with the aim of promoting an active commitment by other young people in combating anti Muslim hatred. It has also been produced a document containing guidelines to support youth organisations and groups in raising awareness against the risks of islamophobia and in building concrete actions to counteract it.
Finally, as part of the work package “Scaling up the counter narrative campaign”, a counter narrative campaign, named “Look Beyond Prejudice” aiming at preventing Islamophobia by deconstructing stereotypes has been promoted in the 6 countries targeting youth as well as the general public. The campaign was launched with a video illustrated by cartoonist Takoua Ben Mohamed, graphic journalist and illustrator, who, with comics and irony, has chosen to talk about integration and dialogue between cultures, thus fighting the discrimination linked to her decision to wear the veil. Within the campaign the EU web series produced by the youth engaged in the project has been promoted.
The EU Manual to Prevent anti-Muslim Hatret towards Women and Girls can be found here: EU Manual REVISED- 30.03