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University of Edinburgh: From one small step many actions are taken

University of Edinburgh: From one small step many actions are taken

Categories:Past Event Articles

Tuesday December 15 2020

It all started with a conversation many months ago when MEND Scotland’s Edinburgh working group started to plan what actions and activities Edinburgh would be doing during Islamophobia Awareness Month. The suggestions came, to work with mosques, Muslim organisations, University ISOC’s and more. But we realised that this was not enough, we needed to reach out to non-Muslim organisations as well and this is when our Edinburgh Chair said he would speak to his work. Umar works in the HR department of Edinburgh University and they were keen from the start to engage.

At the start, it was agreed that an Islamophobia Causes and Cures session would be delivered to the HR team during IAM. But as the month approached and then started our Edinburgh Chair Umar Malik reached out to other departments in the University asking for them to engage and from this what started as a one-off CnC session ended as a plethora of events.

The first session was a C&C with the Edinburgh University ISOC. Edinburgh’s chair delivered the session. Taking attendees through the presentations followed by a Q&A session with discussions around what to do if subject to Islamophobia at which point reference was made to the IRU & the work they do. There was also a question about the media narrative perpetuating the myth of Muslims taking over.

Preparation for this session brought about the discussion and implementation of a motion by the ISOC to ensure that IAM was marked every year at the University.

The next C&C was delivered by Edinburgh’s vice chair to members of Edinburgh Universities Interfaith Students Union. At this event attendees were taken through the presentation and provided with an opportunity to ask questions at the end. Attendees enjoyed the event but were left shocked by the level of Islamophobia and discrimination faced by many.

During the month a podcast was recorded for University Chaplaincy. https://anchor.fm/lets-talkuoe. In this episode, Harriet Harris, University Chaplain was joined by staff member Umar Malik and PhD student Estifa’a Zaid, for a special recording made in Islamophobia Awareness Month. Estifa’a and Umar spoke about their experiences of growing up as Muslims in the UK, of coming to expect Islamophobic behaviour directed towards them, and of bracing themselves for reprisal attacks after terrorist incidents (so-called Islamist or otherwise). They talk about reporting hate crimes, and why people may not choose to report; the targeting of hijab-wearing women; the intersection with racism and the momentum of Black Lives Matter; and the intensifying Islamophobic and racist experiences after the Brexit vote.

The final event was a learning session for HR staff on Islamophobia.
Chair of Edinburgh WG Umar Malik delivered a special presentation on Islamophobia. As November is Islamophobia Awareness Month and Umar agreed to deliver this presentation as good learning and awareness-raising opportunity for all HR colleagues. His presentation included a bit about his background as a Muslim growing up in Scotland, what Islamophobia is, micro-aggressions and media negativity. The Q&A at the end included questions about what HR within the University could do, the difference in approach to Islamophobia in Holyrood & Westminster and the significance of the BLM movement & the connection to tackling Islamophobia. Nearly 70 members of HR dept attended and great feedback was received. A number of people commenting that they found the presentation eye-opening and expressed solidarity and support with the cause.

The event had been preceded by an article Umar wrote on his lived experience of Islamophobia which was published in the Universities internal newsletter and had received very positive feedback. The article allowed attendees of the learning session to have a level of insight and understanding going into the session.

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