Following the Massacre of 69 people by Anders Breivik on July 22nd in Norway, analysts and commentators from across Europe described this appalling event as a wake up call for Europe to stop the intolerance, racism and hatred developing across Europe aimed at Muslim communities.
There is plenty of evidence that the Far Right is growing in its influence and that Islamophobia is increasingly regarded as an acceptable part of the European landscape.
New far right groups continue to emerge – in Denmark recently an inaugural meeting of Europe wide network of Defense League was held. In Belgium ‘Women against Islamisation – another pan European network was set up. More links are being set up with the Evangelical and conservative Far Right groups between the US and Europe. Far Right organisations are rapidly forming alliances throughout Europe and the US promoting an anti Islamic agenda.
Soul of Europe in partnership with Jawaab, aims to create a network of campaigners on across Europe to undermine, interrupt and combat Islamophobia. The Network aimed to attract Muslim and non-Muslims between the ages of 20 and 35. The members involved are from London (UK), Paris (France), Tblisi (Georgia), St Gallen (Switzerland) and Ruhr Westphalia (Germany).
The project had three main phases to it.
Research: each of the 5 cities were researched to identify young activists, organisations and institutions that were already committed to challenging Islamophobia. The Research also identified in each city a mentor who gave his/her support to the project and young activists.
Reflection: before organising a gathering bringing activists and mentors together, we needed some time to get to know the situation on the ground in each of the city, the activists areas and what they required help on. British and German partners met at Haus Villigst (venue for the gathering in Dortmond) to review progress, together with some representatives from the participating cities.
The Gathering: took place in September 2013, it provided each city to’tell their stories’ – what they have achieved, the problems they have encountered and possibilities for the future. The gathering was key for sharing and learning cross generations. Mentors shared their experiences and learning from campaigning in the late 60’s whilst the younger group shared digital campaigning skills and how to utilise social media platforms
Soul of Europe has appointed Young Muslim Voices to coordinate and project manage the project. Preliminary work has already been undertaken and funded by German partners and the Soul of Europe. On February 3rd 2012, German, French and British partners from Cologne, Paris, Birmingham and London met together with a variety of NGO’s, representatives of Muslim and Christian groups to consider the 12 cities project.
On March 10th at Haus Villigst near Dortmund the team met with the German partners to see how the project should be taken further. At this meeting there were Imams, Christian ministers, representatives of Muslim groups of young people, and Muslim women, local and national politicians, both meetings endorsed the 12 cities project enthusiastically – in all some 60 people.
It was agreed that the meeting of representatives from 12 Cities would be held at the prestigious German conference centre at Haus Villigst from March 4- March 6th 2013.
- Soul of Europe
- The Soester Forum for Religions and Culture.