While the language and rhetoric of Islamophobia differed in each, we found much of it perceived Muslims, Islamic practices and sites, such as mosques or community centres, as inherently violent, threatening and incompatible with the view of a European way of life.
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For example, in France, wearing the headscarf and being visibly Muslim is viewed by some as being against French secular values and by extension contrary to being French. We found many examples of good practice when counteracting Islamophobia. For example, interfaith projects in Germany highlighted conviviality and cultural compatibility between Muslims and non-Muslims.
Art was also used in a number of cases, including Belgium and the UK, to challenge Islamophobic ideas. The Tuffix comic strips by German artist Soufeina, and the British film, Freesia , highlight the contribution of Muslims in society, and the issues many Muslims face as a result of Islamophobia. Based on our analysis, our toolkit highlighted some specific strategies that work to counter Islamophobia.
Since a great deal of Islamophobia is based on the notion that Muslims threaten the European way of life, values and culture, one way to challenge these ideas is to highlight the many everyday roles Muslims occupy in society. And since we found that Islamophobic perceptions are often based on the idea that Islam and Muslims are sexist, projects that champion Muslim women, their work and their voices will go some way towards breaking down these preconceptions.
Muslim women are disproportionately affected by Islamophobia. They are not only seen as a threat to the West, but they are also paradoxically portrayed as victims of an alleged Islamic sexism.
These contorted ideas must be overturned with new narratives, led by Muslim women themselves, presented via art, media and popular culture, to portray the diversity of their lives. Islamophobia needs to be properly recorded to assess the scope and nature of the phenomenon, and the narratives and flawed logic used in Islamophobic attacks must be effectively deconstructed and challenged.
Where misinformed narratives concerning Islam and Muslims circulate these must be broken down. A reconstruction of mainstream ideas surrounding Islam and Muslims is needed, one that is closer to the realities of the faith and its practice.
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