It is not easy to be young, British and Muslim. Since the atrocities of 9/11 and 7/7, the media has been awash with stories of the threat of terrorism and the ‘problems’ of multiculturalism. References to Islam or being a Muslim are rarely positive and Muslims are given few opportunities to respond. Those who do can end up in the firing line, especially from commentators quick to assume the worst. Rod Liddle’s column in this magazine last week was a case in point.
Liddle made a grave error when referencing the work of Jawaab (see apology in Letters). We passionately believe in a Britain where people of all religious faiths — and none — live together on the basis of mutual respect, but this essential British tolerance is being threatened by the steady rise of anti-Muslim prejudice. Jawaab has been set up by a group of young professionals, all of whom have faced discrimination. We work with people from all communities, faiths and traditions to build understanding and seek to end the suspicion of minority groups.
Jawaab means ‘answer’ or ‘reply’, but it can also mean to ‘fulfil an action or purpose’. Unemployment, inadequate housing, poor education and constant harassment by police shape young people’s attitudes — which can, in turn, make them vulnerable to dangerous influences. Often, it can be hard for young people to come together to discuss and deal with problems affecting them. Jawaab offers a safe space where they can meet and express themselves. We offer them training so they can become our country’s future leaders.
Jawaab’s work is based on trying to prevent further social alienation. We aim to articulate and bridge the gap between mainstream society and those often perceived as ‘hard to reach’ groups. We aim to build confidence so that, instead of feeling frustrated, young people can develop their skills and take their place in our democratic society. A generation’s voice is being lost to hate and racism; we’re here to help them be heard.