Just days before Slovakia, which has vowed to refuse entry to Muslim refugees, assumes Presidency of the European Union the first European Islamophobia Summit will convene European and U.S. political, academic and civil-society leaders to find solutions to the challenge of Islamophobic bigotry and Anti-Muslim hate crime in Europe.
Confirmed participants at the summit, to be held in Sarajevo, Bosnia on June 24-26, include former British Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, Chairman of Bosnia’s Presidency, Bakir Izetbegović, Founder of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), Bernard Kouchner, international media anchor, Mehdi Hassan and the Grand Mufti of Sarajevo, Husein Kavazović amongst others, as well as representatives from across 17 European nations and different faith communities.
Key outputs to come from the Summit will include the following:
- Establish best policy practices in combatting Islamophobia from across European countries - delivered by leading international academics. These will be compiled into a report that is made available to European policy-makers after the Summit.
- Deliver country-specific case studies on the extent of Islamophobia and suggested approaches to tackling it across 17 European nations.
- An inter-faith Ramadan Iftar dinner that will convene over 400 guests in Sarajevo’s Bašcarsija (old bazaar and cultural centre).
- A panel discussion on how communities can work together to combat different forms of prejudice and bigotry.
- The signing of a joint Istanbul-Sarajevo Declaration on Islamophobia, reflecting a renewed commitment and effort to tackling anti-Muslim hate crime and bigotry by both cities.
Other confirmed summit participants include:
- Civil society organisations such as British counter-racism group, Hope Not Hate, the European Forum of Muslim Women and Turkish Think-Tank SETA.
- Political figures including Member of the European Parliament, Afzal Khan and British MP, Naz Shah;
- Civil society figures including American female basketball player, Indira Kaljo and creator of Islamic super-heroes comic ‘The 99’, Naif al-Mutawa;
- Academic figures including George Town University Research Director, Nathan Lean, and senior Berkley University lecturer, Hatem Bazian.
The European Islamophobia Summit was founded to address the manifold increase in Islamophobic rhetoric and hate crime across Europe, including in France, Spain and Britain – particularly in light of the refugee crisis and terror attacks like those that recently took place in Orlando. The Summit will also focus on combatting the increased mainstreaming of Islamophobia and racism in political discourse, which has led to the
Academic Advisor to the Summit, Dr. Farid Hafez of Salzburg University said “Islamophobia represents a major challenge to European democracy, freedoms and its values of tolerance and pluralism.”
“Against the backdrop of calls by US Presidential candidate Donald Trump to ban Muslims from entering the USA and Hungary’s Prime Minister and upcoming EU President and Slovak Prime Minister both stating Islam has no place in their countries, the need for a Summit uniting political, academic, media and civil society leaders against Islamophobia is timelier than ever.”
In response to recent terror attacks in Orlando, Muddassar Ahmad, a member of the European Islamophobia Summit Advisory Panel and Patron of the Faiths Forum for London said “The European Islamophobia Summit condemns the recent horrific attack on a gay nightclub in Orlando and offers its deepest condolences and thoughts to the families of the victims.”
“All forms of bigotry and prejudice are abhorrent and share the same pernicious structure. This is why at the European Islamophobia Summit, we will discuss fostering cross-community unity against not just Islamophobia, but all forms of prejudice and bigotry.”
He also added, “The choice of Sarajevo, Bosnia as the location for the first European Islamophobia Summit is notable because Bosnia’s history is an example of what can happen when anti-Muslim and racist rhetoric goes unabated. Not far from Sarajevo in Srebrenica, the 21st anniversary of the massacre of 8000 Muslims will be commemorated just days after the European Islamophobia Summit.”
Summit moderator and Director of Development at the Centre for Global Policy, Haroon Moghul, said “Counter-Islamophobia efforts are crucial to counter-extremism efforts. ISIS attacks intend to divide western societies by establishing the ‘grey zone’; the destruction of peaceful co-existence between Muslims and non-Muslims. An Islamophobic reaction is precisely what ISIS terrorists and Far-Right Islamophobic activists hope for in order to realise their clash of civilisations narratives.”
“In addition to protecting the rights of innocent people, this is yet another reason for why the west must remain vigilant against Islamophobic backlash and why the efforts of the European Islamophobia Summit are so important and timely.”
The European Islamophobia Summit will take place across various Sarajevo landmarks including the Sarajevo National Library (within Sarajevo’s City Hall), the Sarajevo National Theatre and Sarajevo’s old bazaar. The summit will be held in partnership with the city Government of Sarajevo.