For a second time this month, we have managed to raise two sets of key issues that are affecting Muslim communities in the UK around anti-Muslim bigotry. The first is the fact that Facebook and Twitter are not effectively removing anti-Muslim hate from their platforms. The second is that post the Charlie Hebdo murders in Paris, young Muslim schoolchildren are being affected by discussions that are being held in classrooms and in schoolyards and which are not properly managed or facilitated. The latter is worrying given the impacts on the perceptions of young people and the way that such perceptions may continue on into adulthood if unchecked.
The Independent has reported on the targeting of young Muslims in schools and this is even more concerning when the Department for Education has made no moves to try and develop material on how teachers can facilitate discussions post Charlie Hebdo. Allied to this is the fact that the Department for Education has issued no guidance on tackling anti-Muslim bigotry and they have confirmed this in the Independent article out today.
We have tried on three separate occasions to meet with the Secretary of State for the Department for Education and on three separate occasions, the request has been turned down even though we are the only agency in the United Kingdom working with victims of anti-Muslim hate and where we have methodically documented the problem. We therefore hope that the Department for Education now does the following:
– That is engages with groups doing this work and develops a specific guidance document on anti-Muslim hate. This should be circulated to as many primary and secondary schools as possible,
– That a short note on the Charlie Hebdo incident be issued to schools to re-iterate that discussions on the Charlie Hebdo incident should not isolate out or alienate Muslim students in classrooms.
Finally, we do hope that the Department for Education takes heed of the need to keep a watching brief on issues around anti-Muslim hatred. The approach taken to date of deferring problems to schools to find solutions is not working. We also hope that the Department realise that tackling hate, intolerance and bigotry is the responsibility of all agencies and that it cannot simply bury its head in the sand, assuming that others will resolve issues of national or international significance that impact on us all.