On 27th and 28th September 2021, the European Forum of Muslim Women took part in online workshops aimed at creating human rights-based narratives to counter anti-Muslim hate speech. This was organised by the Council of Europe’s Inclusion and Anti-Discrimination Division.
The “WE CAN for human rights speech” workshop aimed to help activists from a variety of religious and ethnic backgrounds to develop positive messages to push back against anti-Muslim rhetoric. The workshop consisted of crafting a human rights-based message to create visuals with the help of a professional designer to communicate such messages.
For over a decade, EFOMW has been at a forefront of standing for the most basic of human rights – freedom of choice in practising religion based on Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Women in democratic European societies should be able to exercise this freedom with the choice of wearing the religious dress and be able to enjoy equal opportunities in education and employment. Therefore, EFOMW saw this workshop as a perfect opportunity to develop what constitutes the core of our work as a European organisation committed to promoting human rights.
During the workshop, as a group, we identified that girls and young women who wear a religious dress are disproportionately victimised by hate speech in their educational environments. As a result of the collaborative effort in the workshop, on the 25th of October 2021, EFOMW launched #LetMeChoose campaign. The campaign visuals presented a paper doll with a variety of outfit choices. The paper doll stands as a playful metaphor for freedom to choose one’s dress according to one’s identity.
We have received many positive responses and they show that there are people who stand in solidarity, and who can acknowledge the damage and impact of hate speech on young women and girls when their identity is constantly under attack.
However, as a consequence of a political fallout related to the workshop’s end products, this campaign became the target of the hate-speech storm on social media. These attacks, political and media reactions are perfect case examples of ‘continuum of violent extremism and hate speech and hateful narratives’.
As a Forum of 20 European Muslim women’s organisations, EFOMW stand firm in its commitment to human rights for all European citizens. We will continue working on achieving an inclusive Europe in which Muslim women have full access to their rights and freedoms. Europe in which Muslim women can fully contribute and exercise their civic responsibilities and rights.