“I don’t like Muslims but you’re nice,” says a 15-year-old in Borehamwood to Zaynab, Stand Up! Project Coordinator, in the middle of a session.
By simply meeting a person that she had previously thought of as ‘other’ and by chatting to them as a human being, a barrier in her mind had begun to break down. This is a pivotal point in the Stand Up! Education Against Discrimination workshop where the conversation can either be opened up or shut down. It is in these moments, the Stand Up! team use their experience and facilitation skills to support the students and their peers to respond respectfully, to unpack such comments.
“There are over 1.8 billion Muslims around the world, nearly 25% of the world’s population, how can you dislike all of them but her?” another student challenges.
With the Muslim community making up just 5%, and the Jewish community 0.5%, of the UK population, many young people have not had the opportunity to meet or speak to members of either community. It is no wonder therefore, that negative stereotyping can fester and be left unchallenged.
During Hate Crime Awareness Week, we are reminded about the importance of creating safe spaces to explore topics, which are often seen as taboo. Try the following suggestions, next time you’re planning a session to discuss these issues:
- Set ground rules for respectful conversation.
- Ensure young people have the space and time to share their honest thoughts, but do always challenge harmful rhetoric and prejudice. As we know, undisputed prejudice can easily escalate into verbal and physical abuse.
- Use facts, statistics and real life incidents to counter misconceptions.
- Consider if there is an opportunity to hear from people in the community from different backgrounds.
Stand Up! use facilitators from Jewish and Muslim backgrounds to talk to young people creating a shift in classroom atmosphere, into a space where honest conversations about these topics are encouraged.
We need to ensure that we support our young people to become resilient critical thinkers, giving them the tools to safely stand up against all forms of discrimination.
Working nationally across mainstream schools in the UK, interfaith project Stand Up! Education Against Discrimination deliver workshops to young people about challenging discrimination, with a focus on antisemitism and anti-Muslim hatred. The team see 10,000 students annually, with a variety of conversations explored about the topics.
Stand Up! Education Against Discrimination
Stand Up! is a partnership project managed by Maccabi GB and the CST. For more information and to book free sessions for your secondary school visit our website www.standupeducation.org or email us on email@example.com.