There is no clear-cut root cause of discrimination. However, we’d hazard a guess that a lot of it stems from good (read: not good) ol’ fashioned ignorance.
That’s why we’re big fans of anyone who works to counter this ignorance through education, discussion and downright common sense.
Stand Up! Education Against Discrimination is doing just that. Established in 2016, Stand Up! provides anti-discrimination education to young people in mainstream schools. While it focuses on antisemitism and anti-Muslim hate, the project’s interactive workshops empower young people to act against all forms of discrimination.
The workshops are led by Zaynab Albadry, who is Muslim, and Roxana Jebreel, who is Jewish. This wasn’t an accident.
Stand Up! was created as an interfaith project between Maccabi GB, which works to empower Jewish students, and Tell MAMA, a project which records Islamophobia in the UK.
“The idea was to have somebody from a Jewish background and someone from a Muslim background, together coming into a classroom of around 30….[to] discuss racism and discrimination, with a specific focus on Islam and Judaism, and therefore antisemitism and anti-Muslim hate,” Nathan Servi, the head of education at Maccabi GB, explained.
Thus right off the bat, the teamwork of Albadry and Jebreel challenges one harmful stereotype. The workshops unfold from there.
At the start, the duo ask students about the 2010 Equality Act, which protects people against discrimination on the basis of nine characteristics: age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, and sexual orientation. Given the broad range of identities, students realise that discrimination is still very much a problem.
From there, conversations diverge into other areas, often resulting in thought-provoking discussions on sensitive subject matter. Speaking to the Jewish Chronicle, Albadry described how participants are asked to come up with stereotypes about Jewish people:
“Some of the things that come up include ‘rich’, ‘stingy’, ‘big families’ sometimes, ‘greedy’, ‘controlling the world’.
And Muslim people:
“With the Muslim community it will be things like ‘terrorism’, ‘sexism’ comes up quite a lot, ‘dress rules’, specifically for women, do come up.”
Albadry and Jabreel then encourage the students to consider why such stereotypes exist; where they originated from and why they’re hurtful. Oftentimes students will say they heard these misconceptions online; or that they’ve never actually met someone who follows the faith in question, so never thought otherwise.
We’re not going to lie, Albadry and Jabreel don’t seem to have an easy job. They’re often challenged and occasionally met with an unpleasant hot take. However, when something like this occurs, other students are encouraged to calmly question the view, a move that tends to result in a positive resolution.
“We’ve had times when students—I’ve showed them an example of something that’s being shared online, like a picture saying, ‘Keep calm and kill all Muslims’—and a student said to me, ‘Actually that’s dark humour, that’s fine,’” Albadry recalled.
“And other students turned around to them and said: ‘What if someone said kill all your group of people’—and everyone started thinking about it, and then they realised it wasn’t right.”
After discussions like this, students are then encouraged to report discrimination—any discrimination—whether it happens at school, on the bus or online. When students are reminded of the forms discrimination can take, many reveal they have experienced it themselves. By imploring them to report even the smallest incident, the students are empowered to tackle it with every resource at their disposal.
The sessions are for pupils aged 13 and 18. In the last two years, Stand Up! has run workshops for over 10,000 students in 55 schools across the UK.
We salute Stand Up! for this vital work. By teaching the younger generation to tackle ignorance and embrace different cultures and backgrounds, the project ensures the country’s future is in good hands.
For more information about Stand Up! Education Against Discrimination, head to the website.