School teaches you all kinds of things besides how to spell photosynthesis. The recent terror attacks in Turkey and Belgium instantly became a global event. As kids across the globe return to their classrooms, teachers are no doubt biting their nails thinking of the difficult conversations that are bound to come up.
Contrary to popular belief, kids do listen to their teachers. OK we can’t back that up, but the point is that many kids will have questions about why all their parents suddenly got very quiet on Friday night, what they’re supposed to be thinking during this minute of silence, and why terror attacks happen.
This will weigh heavily on a lot of teachers, some of whom spend more time with students than their parents do, and who know that the way they handle this situation may have have a lasting impact. Judith A. Myers-Walls, professor emerita at Purdue University USA who has studied the impact of political violence on children, told the Independent: “The quality of the response depends a lot on the person who is responding. A teacher can do this very sensitively or very insensitively and some pretend it’s not happening at all.” What the kid actually takes away from a classroom conversation on terror attacks all depends on how the teacher handles it, no pressure.
You’d have to be both a wizard and a scholar to really understand what led to the recent terror attacks and what they mean for the future. The situation is hard enough for adults to understand, let alone children.
It’s important to get the facts right, and there are lots of good resources for this: like this response to questions about whether Islam is to blame for the violence of a group like ISIS, or a back to basics explainer on what ISIS is. One middle school teacher in the US got in an expert to give a lesson to teachers on ISIS and the Middle East. What not to say: “Our religion Christianity teaches love, their religion teaches hate”. Don’t say that. This is what our friend’s cousin’s headmaster told the school assembly.
It’s also important to know how to communicate ideas to children of any age. Helpfully, there is a whole bunch of advice on this, like talking about bad actions as opposed to bad people, and ensuring kids have the space to talk through what they know and how they’re feeling before the adults jump in. You could see it as a problem that these methods aren’t rolled out across the whole country.
Classrooms are filled with kids with all sorts of views about the world. This is very often picked up at home or from other friends, and is normally what makes going to school so valuable. It can also lead to upset, and sometimes painful and lasting upset if students feel directly targeted for who they are by what other kids have to say.
Kids need to feel safe and heard in school. This pamphlet from National Union of Teachers gives some pointers on how to teach controversial issues like terror attacks in an inclusive way:
– organise classroom discussion in ways which enable every pupil to participate in that discussion;
– ensure that the views of everyone in the class are properly heard;
– moderate negative opinions and strong emotions;
– focus on evidence and valid information;
– represent the different points of view as accurately and fairly as possible;
– where possible, use a variety of outside and community sources; and
– demonstrate respect for different opinions.
All we’ll say is it’s a damned fine skill to have.
It is illegal for an educational body to discriminate against children on grounds of their race or religion (or disability, sexuality, nationality, gender… just don’t). Things get a little more blurred when it comes to faith schools, and the fact that according to the Citizens’ Advice for England “In a community or foundation school, acts of collective worship, such as assemblies, must be of a general Christian nature.” For the most part, however, UK schools are attended by people of varied or no faith.
Islamophobic and anti-Semitic hate crime has increased in the last year, meaning teaching around this topic can be particularly important. The National Association of Standing Advisory Councils on Religious Education has a resource dedicated to teaching Islam following Islamist extremist terror attacks.
Recent research from Connect Justice suggests that feeling discriminated against at a young age can play a big role in encouraging people to join groups advocating violent political goals and terror attacks, whether these are far-right groups or Islamist extremist groups. Being told your religion teaches hate might be the very thing that makes you feel disaffected. The majority of people would probably agree that discrimination on grounds of race or religion is a bad thing in itself, but it turns out that there might be a very practical argument against it.
However, some would argue that this sits uncomfortably alongside the UK government’s current policy of tackling homegrown extremism. As of 2015, places of education from nurseries to universities are bound by law to actively counter extremism and radicalisation, though the Home Office have had a tough job explaining what exactly they mean by these words.
The government’s suggested strategy for tackling extremism is to keep a close eye on anyone who appears to be being radicalised and to promote what are being called “British values.” The problem is, if someone feels unfairly singled out for their beliefs, this might be counterproductive to say the least. This legislation was created to counter violence and terror attacks, but some say it gets tricky as teachers are in a legal bind to fight a poorly-defined concept of extremism, meaning you could end up targeting people’s beliefs rather than their actions. What would be a better way?
The media shows us terrorists, extremists and murderers, and a constant association with Islam. In reality the majority of Muslims live in peace and many are fighting back against Islamic Extremism. Yet, is it fair to expect Muslims to apologise for extremists?
Islam is the world’s second largest religion. Muslims believe Allah is the one true God and that the prophet Muhammad communicated his will. Islam promotes messages of peace; the Qur’an (Muslim holy book) states that you should not kill. In Britain there are about 2.7 million Muslims.
Islamism, also called political Islam, is very different. It’s the belief that Islam should be political as well as just personal. It’s often (though not always) linked to violent Islamic extremism, fundamentalist beliefs and terrorist groups.
To Paris, From Pakistan Please share it as much as you can so it reaches the people in Europe!#PrayForParis #PrayForTheWorld House of Lolz
Posted by Pakistani Comedians on Sunday, November 15, 2015
On Friday 13th November 2015, Paris was decimated by a series of terror attacks. At least 129 people are dead and around 99 are seriously injured. Shootings and suicide bomb attacks were carried out across multiple locations. Extremist group the so-called Islamic State (ISIS) claimed responsibility for the attacks.
In the wake of the attacks a series a videos of Pakistani Muslims denouncing the attacks went viral. It begins by saying “we’d like you to know that we’re just a shocked and horrified as everyone else around the world.” It then goes on to say that they would not be apologising for the actions of Islamic State. “We can’t possibly be held responsible for the actions of a few deranged individuals who somehow claim to be like us… that’s like blaming all Germans for the actions of Hitler.”
The hashtag “nous sommes unis” which means “we are united” in French also started trending on twitter.
Earlier in 2015 killer Seifeddine Rezgui murdered 38 people in Tunisia. Islamist group Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack.
When Sky News released this image some people commented that it looked as though the Muslims on the beach were just standing by.
Later, a video would show locals and hotel workers chasing the killer, picking up bottles as weapons and shouting at him “Why?”
Other witness accounts confirmed the bravery of the Tunisians. They placed their own lives in danger protecting the guests.
Sajda Mughal was the only Muslim in the underground carriage targeted in the 7/7 bombings in 2005.
After the attack she quit her job in the city and now works for a charity attempting to stop young people becoming radicalised.
“Islam teaches you to respect life, not even to harm an ant – how could you harm a human being in the name of Islam?” – Sajda Mughal in an interview with the Mirror.
Imams are leaders of the Mosque. They lead the prayers, teach the religion and help out in the community. In the past people have worried that Mosques were places where extremist views could be preached in secret. A group of Imams from around the UK decided to make this video, setting themselves against the actions of Islamic State.
More and more reports describe young Muslims who are radicalised by extremist messages. Many are travelling to areas like Syria and Iraq to join Jihad (“holy war”). It’s worth noting that Jihad isn’t actually a violent concept; it has been misappropriated by extremists.
The Muslim Youth League decided to do something about this. They launched a campaign urging politicians and leaders from the Muslim faith to condemn violence and extremism.
The group used an image of a Muslim woman using a Union Jack flag as a headscarf. Visiting cities up and down the country, they educated many against the dangers of radicalisation.
The campaign was created by Sara Khan who also co-founded the Inspire group; which was created to empower Muslim women and work towards gender equality.
You can view some of the women making a stand on the MAS wall as part of the Inspire website.
Activists and ordinary people uploaded images to social media with #NotInMyName.
Groups like ISIS have used social media to spread their message and many fear they are winning the online battle.
‘After finding out that James Foley had been beheaded and David Haines was next, we decided enough was enough and that we must take action and take a stand to show the world they do not represent us Muslims. They will not kill in the name of Islam.’ – Zahra Qadir from Active Change, the charity behind the campaign.
This year, to mark the 10th anniversary of the 7/7 bombings, Mosques around the country opened their doors. They invited non-Muslims to attend a peaceful “iftar”; the meal eaten after sunset by fasting Muslims. Imams are also encouraged to mention 7/7 in their sermons.
That list only gives 8 examples. It doesn’t mention the other times Muslim leaders around the world denounced ISIS, or Muslims in the security services who protect our country from terrorists.
We should also mention the countless times Muslims have explained that terrorist groups misinterpret the teachings of Islam, which is a peaceful religion.
Is it enough to win over the public opinion? More importantly, why should Muslims have to apologise for the misinterpretation of their religion?
More than a quarter of British 18-24s don’t trust Muslims. Around 15% of Muslims are Islamists according to historian Daniel Pipes, though many would disagree with that statistic. Yet some people think that just because the figure is low it doesn’t mean we can’t debate the big issues. When confronted with this statistic American journalist Brigitte Gabriel gave this passionate response;
Is she right? The percentage of Muslims who are extremists is extremely low; does this mean we shouldn’t link Islamic Extremism to Islam? It’s unlikely a definite answer is coming any time soon. With David Cameron and Teresa May pressing the Muslim community to do more to combat extremists, this issue will be on the agenda for a long time to come.
However some might argue that it is unfair to expect Muslims to apologise for, and condemn acts of Islamic extremism. This Daily Show clip outlines the issue perfectly. It’s arguable that we wouldn’t expect a Christian to condemn all the bad things the Church has done in the past. Nor would we ask a white person to condemn all the acts of violence committed by white people. So why do we demand this from Muslims?
Do we need to do more to ensure Muslims aren’t misrepresented? Can the Muslim community do more to condemn acts of violence and should we expect this? Are people too scared to speak out for fear of being seen as racist or Islamophobic?
The news tells us: Russia is racist and homophobic. Is this true – or is the Western media portraying Russia in a certain way?
Racism is prejudice and/or discrimination against someone of a different race. It’s the belief that your own race is superior to others. A study by the Higher School of Economics in Moscow, Russia found that around 70% of Russians hold negative feelings about people of another ethnicity.
Back in 2009 research by the Sova Centre for Information and Analysis found that the number of victims of racist attacks had actually dropped for the first time in six years. However, the centre stated that “xenophobic violence remains alarming in its scope and extends over most of the Russian regions, affecting hundreds of people.”
In recent years many articles in the media have expressed concern about an increase in racist activity in Russia. The most recent example gaining a lot of media attention related to a football game. Emmanuel Frimpong is a footballer from Ghana in Africa, who plays for Arsenal. Frimpong claims he heard racist chants and monkey noises when playing against the Russian team Spartak Moscow. Not cool.
This isn’t just an isolated incident. Anti-discrimination group the Fare Network released a report on racist activity in Russian football. They list 99 racist displays in Russian football from 2012 to 2014, and 21 incidents of violence linked to racism. The Fare Network say these figures are “far from exhaustive”. It adds that they can “only be indicative of a wider problem”. Meaning that in reality things are probably a lot worse.
Many people believe Russia should not be allowed to host the football World Cup in 2018 due to this recent racist behaviour. The obvious question: why are things so bad?
Russia’s President Putin leads the United Russia political party. When he came into power in 2000, the country was not in the best of places. It had suffered a financial crisis in 1998 when the Russian stock market collapsed. The Washington Post describes how Putin, facing opposition from other parties, needed “an ideology of power” to inspire the country.
This new ideology included the values of nationalism and patriotism. Basically: Russia is the best, and we are becoming stronger.
Patriot Park is a good example of this “pro-Russia” approach. It’s a “military Disney-land” where families can explore military vehicles and weapons. Yes, a theme park for Russian military strength. You can’t make this stuff up.
Extreme nationalism is sometimes described as a far-right ideology. Extreme racist views are also described this way. The Fare Network believes that the rise in racism can be linked to the spread of a new far-right ideology, found in Russian football supporters in the late 1990s. It’s worth saying that not all far-right ideas lead to racist activity.
According to the Fare Network “the situation inside [football] stadiums reflects societal developments coinciding in certain periods with rise in nationalist rhetoric of the government.”
What this means: racist behaviour is on the rise and this could have a link to increases in patriotic and nationalist language used by the government.
Putin’s nationalist language seems to be working. The Pew Research Centre reports that the percentage of Russians with a very favourable image of their own country has risen from 29% in 2013 to 63% today.
However, Putin’s nationalism may not be to blame for an intolerance of diversity. Historian and journalist James Pearce believes racist attacks across Russia could simply be a response to what Russians see as a failure to integrate into their society. “Russians are also still ‘adjusting’ to foreigners, many have never even met one.”
Homophobia is the hatred or fear of homosexuals.
Homosexuality is not illegal in Russia, yet many gay Russians hide their true sexuality. They fear what might happen if they’re discovered.
Polling company Levada Center discovered 37% percent of Russians think homosexuality is a disease which needs to be cured.
An article in GQ is just one of many which details violent attacks on members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community. Gay pride rallies are often hijacked by extreme homophobic groups. It has also been reported that homophobic groups trick gay men into meeting for a date then film the torture of their victim and post the footage online.
When many people celebrated the legalisation of gay marriage in America by changing their online profile pictures to a rainbow flag, many Russian users changed their picture to the Russian national flag. The Russian version of SIRI, the iPhone personal assistant, got caught making homophobic comments. The “system error” which led to this was corrected.
The Fare Network report points out that “although the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community are not the primary target of discriminatory abuse inside [football] stadiums, these spaces remain ‘no-go’ areas for them.”
Again, this isn’t just about football. This video seems to make a point in evidencing that even basic public displays of affection between a gay couple could be problematic;
New laws are making it more and more difficult for Russians to express their sexuality.
In 2012 the city of Moscow banned gay pride events. Was this ban for the year? No, it was for the next ONE HUNDRED years. The government said Pride events would spread disorder and that people living in the city didn’t want it. It’s not clear what they plan to do when the 100 year ban expires.
Then a 2014 law banned educational material about homosexuality for under 18s. The exact wording of the new law was:
“Propaganda is the act of distributing information among minors that 1) is aimed at the creating nontraditional sexual attitudes, 2) makes nontraditional sexual relations attractive, 3) equates the social value of traditional and nontraditional sexual relations, or 4) creates an interest in nontraditional sexual relations.”
Educating kids about homosexuality would mean you are guilty of breaking the law. Russians who break the law face a 5,000 rouble fine (£50). The penalty is even worse for schools at 500,000 roubles (£5000). Foreigners can also face a fine, jail time for up to 15 days, and even get kicked out of the country. Way to kill the mood, Russia.
The Russian Orthodox Church is Russia’s largest religion. 90% of Russians say they are Orthodox (though 75% admit only attending church only once a year, or not at all).
Writer Andrew Kornbluth comments that Russian homophobia is “a psychological coping strategy”. It’s a response to “a distinct trauma: the long-ago disintegration of the same ‘traditional values’ that the homophobes profess to be defending.”
As we mentioned above, President Putin is attempting to revive traditional values of nationalism across Russia. Forbes Magazine describes how Putin noticed how the Russian Orthodox Church played a “useful role in boosting nationalism and the fact that it shared his view of Russia’s role in the world”.
Putin strengthened the Church’s role in Russian society. The Church now teaches religion in Russian schools and is able to review legislation going before the Russian parliament. So, what are they teaching?
Recently Putin praised the Russian Orthodox Church for inspiring a “spirit of patriotism” in young Russians and for preserving Russia’s “rich cultural and historical heritage and in reviving eternal moral values”.
These moral values don’t seem to include homosexuality. The head of the Russian Orthodox Church says that gay marriage is “a very dangerous apocalyptic symptom” and that every effort should be taken to make sure “sin is never sanctioned in Russia by state law.”
President Putin’s push for a patriotic Russia isn’t to blame for Russian homophobia, but the power of the Russian Orthodox Church over Russia probably isn’t helping matters. As for the church, they believe they are protecting traditional moral values.
Speaking out against Putin and the Church will get you into trouble. Feminist punk rock band Pussy Riot often incorporate LGBT themes into their work. In 2012 they performed a song “Punk Prayer – Mother of God, Chase Putin Away!” This act of protest against President Putin was performed in a Russian Orthodox cathedral. Members of the band were arrested; the head of the Church said they were doing the work of the devil. Not exactly constructive criticism.
Western media has got a little fixated with Russia. But is the media biased against Russia? This year the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies launched a “mass media hostility index”. Sounds ominous; it’s actually quite clever. It measures the anti-Russia bias in the media, and aims to identify which countries are bad-mouthing Russia.
According to the study, throughout 2014 Western media increased its “anti-Russian propaganda”. The brains behind the study called this the start of an “information war” against Russia.
Of course, 2014 was the year Russia nicked a patch of land called the Crimea from Ukraine. Western countries especially, were not impressed by this. So, it might be no surprise that our media started bashing Russia for what it considers an illegal takeover. But, there are always two sides to every story.
This year the British presenter and DJ Reggie Yates traveled to Russia to film a documentary series: Extreme Russia. It covered the rise in Russian nationalism, homophobia and the modelling industry.
The documentary was praised for exploring the rise of extremism in Russia. Not everyone was a fan, though. Journalist and historian James Pearce wrote an article claiming that the documentary series only showed one side of the story.
Pearce wrote, “in simple terms, what Reggie Yates has done, is play on an existing prejudice and told a British audience ‘this is Russia’; a country full of neo-Nazi’s, homophobes and child models.”
According to Pearce the documentary showed off “the worst sides of some extremist groups” and did not explore why these groups have grown in popularity.
We asked him where he thinks the current racist and homophobic stereotypes come from. He believes it stems from small truths being blown out of proportion. “In Russia, it is not a crime to be homosexual – in India it is and seven African nations have the death penalty for it, yet people don’t seem to be discussing this… Moscow has gay clubs, as does St Petersburg. This isn’t to say homophobia is non-existent but by and large, Russia remains a conservative society.”
According to Forbes Magazine, Russia sees itself as “neither Western nor Asian, but rather a unique society representing a unique set of values which are believed to be divinely inspired.”
Pearce quotes Russian filmmaker Andron Konchalovskiy who said “It’s too bad we’re not blue, green or purple. That way they’d [the West] get off our backs… The West expects us to act like they act. They go after us all the time. Do you know why? It’s because we look like them. If we looked different they’d get off our backs.”
Pearce also argues that countries like China, Saudi Arabia and Qatar do not receive as much criticism for being undemocratic or living up to western standards. Do we think Russia should act like a Western country, because the Russians look like us? “Many Russians believe this is the problem too. Russians look like Westerners but in fact they’re not. They’re different.”
So, what we see in the media could be biased against Russia. It just confirms stereotypes we already have. If we’re hating on Russia for being “backwards” what about all the other countries that could be accused of the same thing?
We contacted the Russian embassy to find out their views on the report into racist activity; but so far haven’t heard back.
Yuri Boychenko (chief of anti-discrimination at the United Nations) believes that to stop racist behaviour the Russian government must understand how bad the problem is. “First comes recognition; that authorities here should recognise that there is a problem and I believe that the recognition is coming.”
But for the moment it seems Russia needs some positive press, to allow people to move past the stereotypes.
Is Russia racist and homophobic? Extreme Russia with Reggie Yates can be viewed on the BBC iPlayer.
Two West Yorkshire teenagers are the latest in a line of stories in the news about UK teens escaping to Syria to fight on both sides of the conflict with Islamic State. But how are they doing it?
*This is us officially stating, this is in no way a tool, a guide or endorsement. Simply investigative and explanatory journalism.*
IGNORING THE UK GOVERNMENT
The UK’s foreign and commonwealth office advise against ALL travel to Syria.
There is widespread fighting in the majority of the country, air strikes and high threats of kidnapping and terrorism.
It’s not illegal to travel there, just very, very dangerous.
But anyone who has left for Syria and whose activities amount to terrorism under UK law could be prosecuted on return by the UK government.
But hey, what do these guys know? So far it’s thought 600 people from the UK have travelled to Syria and Iraq.
KNOW WHERE YOU’RE GOING
Syria is in the Middle East, next to Iraq and Turkey.
Many of the Brits that have travelled are flying to Turkey and slipping through the border into Syria, which is infamously easy to slip through undetected. Mini-buses shuttle people to remote parts of the country where the border is less well maintained.
Others have gone to the island of Cyprus and then sailed across.
You could always ask an expert: Not everyone has the best knowledge when it comes to these matters – so one individual posted on the Lonely Planet Traveler website asking for information on which borders were open to them.
As S.o.R. reported earlier the UK is bringing in exit checks at all borders. So you’d better have a good reason for travelling.
Some people have claimed they were going on holiday or staying with relatives, whilst others say their reason for travelling is Humanitarian or Charity work
The two West Yorkshire teenagers who travelled to Turkey on 31st March told their families they were going on a school trip. They are now believed to be in Syria fighting with Islamic State.
A series of exits checks on citizens leaving the UK begin today, and by June it will effect everyone.
MODE OF TRANSPORTATION: COMMERICIAL AIR, SEA AND RAIL aka. pretty much everywhere as new checkpoints have been introduced in coach halls, ferry points and in train terminals that uses the Euro tunnel.
METHOD: Scan of the passport and a verification (meaning an official does a double take of your face to check if it matches your passport picture). No fake ID’s please.
TAKE TWO: This is a re-introduction, the last time we had exit checks were in 1998.
MORE INFORMATION: in the form of data so the government can keep an eye on who’s doing what, how and when.
REIGNING IN ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION: This data will be able to improve identify and further tighten routes and visas that are vulnerable to being abused by illegal immigrants.
COMBATTING CRIME: Illegal immgration is a crime but the information collected will also help track wanted suspects or could play a vital role in solving crimes. Here’s hoping no more teenagers will be able to flee to Syria.
MONITORING NUMBERS: It has been often difficult to be certain about how many people have left the country and not returned in order to give an accurate account of what immigration figures actually are in the UK. This new system will make sure we know exactly how many people are roaming these lands.
CREATING MORE JOBS: 50 new staff have been recruited.
GENERAL ELECTION TACTICS: Given that this is being bought in the final month of a Conservative government, it has the ability to gain popularity amongst the UKIP supporters or those who have been troubled by an immigration surge on home turf in the UK.
MORE QUEUES: Well we don’t know for sure yet, but this is the UK, we already have to queue to drop off our bags, get a ticket or board a ferry so make that of it what you will.