We are concerned to learn that the Home Office have commissioned “EqualiTeach” to work with young people in Luton around issues related to Islamophobia.
The Luton Council of Mosques & the Luton Sunni Council of Mosques founded Luton’s Islamophobia Working Group and have led the challenge to racist and Islamophobic narratives locally. As a town with a significant young Muslim population, we have consistently challenged the local authority, education and school leaders to consider the impact and trauma felt by Muslim young people due to the exponential rise in hate crime incidents and the increased acceptability of Islamophobic discourses. We have provided free training to public, private and third sector organisations including specific workshops for teachers, and to young people in a number of different settings. We welcome all meaningful efforts to create positive change in this area.
However, Equaliteach’s programme, “Agents for Change” is commissioned and funded through the Building Stronger Britain Together (BSBT) fund, which comes from the government’s counter-extremism strategy. The Luton Council of Mosques & the Luton Sunni Council of Mosques have had long-standing concerns about our government’s approach to counter extremism and believe that this, in itself, has contributed to the rise of Islamophobia nationally. The strategy frames Muslims and expressions of our faith through the lens of extremism and suspicion, and as such is structurally discriminatory. Our local authority is well aware of our communities’ objection to this strategy and that we would be unable to support or be involved in this programme. It is deeply disappointing that, as those most impacted by Islamophobia, our contributions are neither sought nor welcomed. This speaks volumes to the motivation of this work and completely undermines our efforts to create inclusive spaces where Muslims, can speak honestly and openly about these issues and our experiences. We believe that Muslim communities should themselves be leading the response to Islamophobia, and should be supported in doing so. This requires “working with” rather than “working on” communities. Having spoken to individuals involved in EqualiTeach’s pilot programme in Tower Hamlets, we are aware that concerns were also raised there about the manner in which Muslim representatives were engaged with, and by the overall delivery of the programme. It troubles us that lessons have not been learnt from those experiences.
We cannot in good faith, support a programme which legitimises the framing of Muslims as a suspect community. The dismantling of Islamophobia not only requires the challenging of overt displays of this type of racism, but also the rejection of the institutional structures which bolster it. To use funding from this strategy on programmes which purport to tackle Islamophobia is both insulting and morally dubious. We urge Luton Borough Council to be open and honest with both schools and participants about the source of BSBT funding and the objections laid out in this letter and our previous correspondence in relation to the Prevent strategy.
Luton Council of Mosques
Luton Sunni Council of Mosques
Lantern – Muslim Women’s Voices
Dr Fatima Rajina
Attiq Malik, Lawyer & Anti-Racism activist
Luton People’s Assembly
11th September 2019