We are formally two years old today and the TELL MAMA project started its first day of work on the 3rd of November 2011. As we place the second candle in the cake, the last two years have shown us the vast amount of work that lies ahead of us as anti-Muslim prejudice morphs and changes rapidly, whether because of national issues such as recent grooming cases, extremism and terrorist cases or when national incidents like Woolwich unfortunately take place. In fact, over the last year, not a single week has gone by without one national story implicating Muslim communities. It seems that some news outlets have sought for nothing more than to make headlines about Muslims more and more prevalent and bizarre as time has gone on.
We believe that the last 2 years have developed the foundations for this work and the work will go from strength to strength. Debate based on the denial of anti-Muslim prejudice is no longer relevant and the debate has, thankfully, moved on. Our work has been instrumental in ensuring that this debate is over given the evidence, case histories and academic reports that we have provided. Yet, in those two years, every smear that can be thrown at the project and its staff, has been thrown and then some more. From attacks and character assassinations on the Director of TELL MAMA to weaken the leadership in the project, through to suggestions that we ‘curtail’ free speech and are ‘shadowy’. Also, by virtue of being a project working with Muslim communities, some have taken the position that we must be de-facto anti-Semitic. Such smears which have no merit whatsoever, have occassionally emanated from individuals of Jewish heritage and who take very strong anti-Muslim and anti-Islam positions. Of all of the smears, this is the one that has been the most depressing given that it has been the work of organisations like the Community Security Trust which has inspired us and given us the space to launch such a project to tackle anti-Muslim prejudice. Work on countering anti-Semitism has not only been an inspiration for us, it is the yardstick by which we keep our focus knowing that major drives against anti-Semitism have had incredible success. Allied to this, the TELL MAMA staff team view anti-Muslim prejudice and anti-Semitism as social phenomenon which must be collecively reduced in their intensity.
So, as we move into the third year of the TELL MAMA project, we have no regrets given the successes that we have had. Drive, determination and focus are key fundamentals in this project, but unfortunately, many of us working in the staff team have also had to develop a thick skin. This should not be the case, but sadly this is the reality. Maybe, just maybe, next year’s celebration will be a much more happier one.