Lurdes Vidal: “The persistence of gender-based Islamophobia shows that intersectionality is necessary in the analysis and in the fight against Islamophobia”.

The Organising Committee of the International Forum on Social Innovation has talked with Lurdes Vidal, Director of the Mediterranean Arab World (IEMED). As member of the Academic Committee, with regular appearances in several media and professor at the University of Barcelona, Lurdes highlights that the Muslim community must find its own voice and place in the public discourse, “not only as Muslim, but as citizens that show their points of view”.

What is your view regarding the current migration model?
Unfortunately it is a critical point of view, not towards the phenomenon of migration, but rather about how it is managed in Europe. I think that there is still this underlying idea that migration flows are a one-time thing, just circumstantial and extraordinary, and that they can be prevented. Human beings have migrated and will keep on migrating for different pressing reasons. The idea should be: how can we make this way better for everyone, for those who migrate and for those who welcome migrants. I also think that establishing categories of migrants regarding the so-called “economic migrants”, especially at a time when the line between forced and voluntary displacement is blurrier than ever, is a perverse idea.

The motto of this forum is “Migration. Joining forces to reset the system”. Do you think that, by means of a collective desire and an effective intervention from different social fields, we can achieve a fair and humane migration system?
For me, it is clear that without an intervention from the society, we will not be able to achieve a fairer and humane system. Therefore, when institutional frameworks do not provide an adequate response, acting with a collective conscience is more important than ever. On the one hand we need to raise awareness, and on the other hand we need to act, not only to fill the gaps that the current management model creates, but also to denounce, claim and promote a better system.

Do you think that spaces like this forum can help create and strengthen innovative and cross-cutting initiatives and processes for the integration of migrants and refugees in Europe?
This kind of fora are essential to generate a social agenda that could eventually become a political agenda. If there is no debate, no questioning, if there is no mobilised critical mass, we will hardly be able to influence migration policies. On the other hand, it is essential to do networking, to establish complementarities, to know the work or other and to learn how to improve our actions through learning and exchange. This forum will not only play the music, but different social stakeholders will dance in a more synchronised way so that together we can be more effective in our respective fields.

In the last decade, there has been a rampant increase of Islamophobia, also linked with the raise of far-right and anti-immigration movements. How can we citizens challenge existing narratives that normalise discrimination against the Muslim community? What measures are necessary to combat the Islamophobic discourse in the media and among political authorities?
To start with, it is essential to acknowledge the problem and raise awareness, since Islamophobia is still to this day a phenomenon under question, silenced many times under the umbrella of other discriminations. However, normalising the reality, diversity and pluralism of Muslims in Europe is of paramount importance. It is essential that this pluralism finds its voice and place in the public discourse, not only as Muslims, but as citizens that show their point of view. At the Observatory of Islamophobia in the Media, instead of confronting narratives, we have determined that raising awareness about their responsibility among journalists and in the media pays off. We have also observed how the theory of “communicating channels”: the improvements in the media can unleash improvements in other fields, such as the institutional, and vice-versa. Therefore, we need to tackle this issue from different angles and cross-cuttingly. The persistence of gender-based Islamophobia shows that intersectionality is necessary in the analysis and to counter Islamophobia. There is still a long way to go, but the experience from the last two and a half years, shows us that change is possible and encourages us to keep on working to deactivate a criminalising and stigmatising discourse towards Islam and Muslims.

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