MEND Leicester: Leicester Grammar School Islamophobia Causes and Cures
Categories: Past Event Articles
Monday February 15 2021
Leicester Grammar School.
“No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” – Nelson Mandela
Leicester Grammar is one of the country’s top-performing, co-educational independent schools in the country. It was, therefore, a great privilege to be asked to speak about Islamophobia to two years 7 classes this month. The religion and philosophy department had been covering the subjects Islam and independently on racism and intolerance.
The teacher wanted the students to understand the nature of phobias and especially what inspired them. She wanted her class to critically analyse media reporting to understand global islamophobia and the reality of what many Muslims have to live through.
Due to the pandemic, the presentation was given by zoom on two separate days and recorded to be shared with the rest of the classes.
The essence of the presentation was that all forms of hate follow a similar pattern and although this presentation was about islamophobia it could equally be for any other forms of hate.
We wanted to emphasise the importance of diversity and understanding that differences are not something to fear. Also, we have many more things in common than what differentiates us. The initial slides were of Islam being part of the Abrahamic faith and having many similarities to Christianity and Judaism.
After introducing the children to the concept of the freedom to worship and thought, enshrined by the United Nations in the human rights act, the example of the Uighur Muslims was given as a sad example where this lofty yet basic principle is not upheld. The shock of a million people missing was tangible from the students despite being only virtually present.
We emphasised to the students that if they took one thing home with them it was always to understand where hate, prejudices, and perceptions come from. To ask questions when they see or read things from a secondary source.
The children were shown the chain of Islamophobia slides explaining how for every one moderate mention of Muslims in the national media was negated by 21 negatives and how to translate that into real life. I asked them the rhetorical question that, if the teacher had told them 21 bad things about me and just one neutral thing before this presentation, what would they think of me even before they had met me?
The next few slides showed the children some real-life examples of Islamophobia including physical damage to graves and properties and bullying at school (a video was shown). The slides thereafter were quite difficult as they were of physical violence against Muslims including the Zainab Hussein case- a mother who was a victim of a horrendous Islamophobic crime after having dropped off her children at school.
We ended the presentation on a positive note. Slides were shown of some of the contributions made by Muslim pioneers including contemporary celebrities and historic inventions. Except for Algebra (understandably for 12-year-olds) the children were impressed with Muslim input into the development of such diverse fields as medicine, optics, and coffee production.
Education is the key to tackle all forms of hate and discrimination. Presentations of this nature lay a real foundation in making children aware of where prejudices come from and what to do if they are witnesses of such bullying or indeed are victims of hate. Overall the feedback was overwhelmingly positive with the children engaged and provoked much debate with their teacher.
If you would like a presentation to be delivered at your school please do email us on [email protected]