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The Counter-Islamophobia Kit

Counter-Islamophobia Toolkit

The ‘Counter-Islamophobia Kit’ (CIK) is a ground-breaking project that contains key actionable messages to be conveyed to policy makers, national governments, professionals, civil society, the media and practitioners from across the EU. It was launched at the European Parliament in Brussels on 26 Seprember 2018.

The project seeks to identify the dominant anti-Muslim narratives employed in Europe, and compares the use and efficacy of prevailing counter-narratives to Islamophobia across eight EU Member States (the UK, France, Germany, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Portugal and Greece).

The CIK project was led by the University of Leeds (UK). Case study expertise and fieldwork was carried out by the project’s academic partners, the Centre for Ethnicity and Migration Studies, University of Liège (Belgium), Centre for Social Studies, University of Coimbra (Portugal), Alba Business School (Greece), Center for Policy Studies, Central European University (Hungary), Institute of Sociological Studies, Charles University (Czech Republic), and non-academic partners the Islamic Human Rights Commission (France, Germany and UK).

The project has been centrally informed by two key approaches to understanding Islamophobia:

  • Professor Salman Sayyid’s view that Islamophobia can be understood as more than simply an expression of hatred or fear, Islamophobia needs to be understood as an undermining of the ability of Muslims as Muslims, to project themselves into the future, and as a form of racism.
  • the Domination Hate Model of Intercultural Relations developed by the Islamic Human Rights Commission, which conceptualises Islamophobia as the product of a series of interconnected and interlocking environments and most effectively captures the multi-dimensional complexity of these narratives.

The Counter-Islamophobia Kit is built around 3 workstreams comprising a total of 16 country  reports, 2 comparative  reports, 1 legal and policy report and 8 Key National Messages reports, plus a briefing paper that provides an overview of the project.

For anti-racists in Scotland and the elsewhere in the UK, the executive summary (below) of the report on Key National Messages for the UK is a good starting point.

Key National Messages – UK (Executive Summary)

by Arzu Merali

The last two decades have  witnessed  a steep rise in anti-Muslim prejudice, discrimination and  violence in Britain. Studies such as those by Ameli and Merali (2015) have all shown an  increase in anti-Muslim antipathy to the extent that it can be said that the experience of  Islamophobia has become almost universal for Muslims.  While  Islamophobia is indeed a  relatively new term it bespeaks a phenomenon that is centuries old and has its roots in racial  discourse.  As victims of racialisation and racialised discourse Muslims are thus victims of institutional racism in the same manner  as Jews.  The study found that narratives of Islamophobia in Britain are subsumed under four overarching meta-narratives:

  1. Muslims as a security threat (and therefore in need of regulation by way of exceptional law, policy and social praxis) .
  2. Disloyalty and the threat to internal democracy
  3. Islam as a counter to ‘Britishness’ / ‘Fundamental British Values’
  4. Muslims in need of integration (assimilation)

In effect, Islamophobia has become part of the fabric of a national story of what it means to  be British.  Not only is Britishness navigated through a denial of Muslimness, it is also represented through the articulation of supremacism as a normal facet of law and nation.  Therefore, for counter narratives to be effective they need to operate at every level of society, most crucially the state and media, and confront issues such as structural racism that are  wider and more-deep rooted than Islamophobia per se.  The study also identified the ten most important counter-narratives in the UK context:

  1. Decentring conversations on Islam and Muslims from current institutionalised narratives
  2. Diversifying the understanding of what, who and how is a Muslim, and the acceptance of this plurality within a plural understanding of the nation.
  3. Contextualising the nature and level of ‘threat’ posed by political violence per se by reviewing the epistemology of current security policies.
  4. Acknowledging structural issues and racism(s)
  5. Acknowledging Islamophobia as a form of violence that is relational to both recent and colonial history and current events in various Westernised settings that refer to each other in order to perpetuate each other.
  6. Removing hierarchies of racism and acknowledging Islamophobia as a form of  racism
  7. A refocus on equalities, or ideas of injustice as the normative focus of the state.
  8. Accuracy in, agitation for and sanction for failure in delivering accurate representation in particular but not solely media representation.
  9. A cultural shift in understanding who is part of the national, and how national  histories  have been intimately intertwined with Muslims and Muslim cultures and  nations over centuries.
  10. Recapturing and creating further space for Muslim narratives of being.

Developing effective counter-narratives is essential in order to stem the tide of Islamophobia sweeping the nation. Counter-narratives must reset the parameters of conversations about  Islam and Muslims, unconditionally including Muslims in the national conversation on their  own terms. The casting of Muslims as somehow living outside the idea of ‘Britishness’ needs to be challenged in a way that allows for a pluralistic conception of the term in opposition to the narrow and exclusivist conception that has gained traction in recent years.

Worryingly however this study found a sense that engagement with  government, media and other main institutions was mainly futile because they are seen as presiding over and  reproducing Islamophobic narratives. The narrowing of representations of Muslimness, the squeezing out of Muslims from public and political space by accusations of extremism and entryism, and the rising of a nationalistic and nativist discourse around Britishness that constructs its identity against various tropes of Muslimness all serve as markers of expulsion of Muslims from equality as citizens.


News Reports

Discussion on European Parliament TV about the launch of the CIK

Discussion with Jean Lambert MEP (Green Party of England and Wales), Professor Salman Sayyid (University of Leeds) and Arzu Merali (Islamic Human Rights Commission).

Report by TRT World on the Brussels launch of the CIK

Journalist Assed Baig speaks to IHRC's Abed Choudhry and looks at the background to the CIK project.

More about the Counter-Islamophobia Kit

The reports that make up the CIK are available via the links below.

Workstream 1 - Dominant Islamophobic Narratives

Workstream 2 - Dominant Counter-Narratives to Islamophobia

Workstream 3 - Key National Messages


The Counter-Islamophobia Kit was co-funded by the Centre for Ethnicity and Racism Studies (University of Leeds) and the Rights, Equality and  Citizenship (REC) Programme of the European Union. The contents of the papers published under the auspices of the project are the sole responsibility of their authors and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of the European Commission.

The CIK consortium holds copyright for the papers published under the auspices of the project. Reproduction in whole or in part of this text is allowed for research and educational purposes with appropriate citation and acknowledgement.