By Sarah Robinson Galloway, YouthLink Scotland

“But if you only have love for your own race;

Then you only leave space to discriminate;

And to discriminate only generates hate;

And when you hate then you’re bound to get irate.”

 

“Yo’ whatever happened to the values of humanity;

Whatever happened to the fairness and equality;

Instead of spreading love we’re spreading animosity;

Lack of understanding, leading us away from unity.”

Black Eyed Peas

 

As I watched the One Love Concert on Sunday night, for the first time I listened properly to the lyrics of ‘Where is the Love’ by the Black Eyed Peas. It struck me how relevant those words were in relation to the language and hate I had witnessed on social media in the previous 24 hours.

Attacks like we’ve seen in Manchester and London in the last three months are reprehensible. It is natural to react to these events with fear and hate, but the extreme reactions from some individuals and groups makes me worry for the future of the United Kingdom. Within minutes of breaking news reports of what was happening on London Bridge, I saw one tweet immediately blaming Islam. Not ISIS – Islam. It laid blame on an entire faith group for the atrocities committed, at that point, by three individuals. At that moment in time, no one could have known exactly what their motivation was.

There has been a lot of discussion around upholding British values and my question is how are these assumptions – these attacks – affecting our values and our society? Can we honestly say that we still treat everyone equally? That we are an inclusive and tolerant society? What I have witnessed in videos and posts on social media suggest not.

First of all, what are British values? As defined by the UK Government, they are democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs. However, values change depending on the individual, the time period, and often when Government leadership changes too. Maybe another value we should consider is that of understanding, we should all take the time to get to know each other in order to build respect.

As a country we are on tenterhooks, on edge and worried about what may come next. It’s natural to feel nervous about people who dress or speak or worship or live differently to you. But we must not assume that this difference is indicative of something dangerous. We cannot blame a whole community for the actions of an individual or extremist group who claim to be part of that community. Greater Manchester Police announced that hate crimes doubled in the week following the attack. The news reports lots of accounts of people being told to ‘go back to your own country’ and others being called ‘terrorists’, just because of their appearance. This includes a surgeon who worked for 48 hours to save the lives of those injured in the Manchester attack.

Islamist extremism is not the only form of extremism we face in the UK. Violence has been perpetrated by extreme right-wing groupings in Europe on a similar scale to Islamist groups. There is a danger when Asian people are five times more likely and black people seven times more likely to be stopped and searched at than white people under section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000. (http://www.civilrightsmovement.co.uk/facts-racial-profiling.html)

How do we change this mindset? In my opinion, education, youth work and community discussions are the best place to start. Young people get a lot of negative press but we need to remember that they are the agents for positive change. By understanding the difficulties young people face, we can support and join them in building a better, more tolerant and safer future.

A society that values democracy, mutual respect and tolerance is built on an understanding and acceptance of different beliefs and cultures. It is a place where these can come together harmoniously. Youth work has already made significant strides in this direction – working with young people directly has given them a voice in Scotland. An example of this is taking place at the moment where Young Scot are working with a group of 15 young people from across Scotland to set out a ‘youth led vision of race equality in Scotland by 2030’ as part of the Scottish Government’s Race Equality Framework (http://www.youngscot.net/fairer-future-youth-vision-for-scotland/). Youth workers across the country work with young people on a daily basis on how they can express their views. They encourage them to vote, to have an informed opinion and to listen to the opinions of others to continually develop their own.

Youth workers have a unique insight into the young people they work with. They are in a position to identify if someone is at risk of or is already being radicalised, and then take steps to either challenge those views or, if necessary, seek specialist help. In the case of the Manchester bomber, it was a youth worker who had flagged their concerns about Salman Abedi to authorities. Youth work is key in supporting young people who are feeling isolated and who are at risk of being radicalised. As a result, it is also key to preventing these kind of extremist acts in future.

 

Opinions expressed by bloggers are their own and don't represent those of Action on Sectarianism or YouthLink Scotland

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Eolene Boyd-MacMillan
Thanks so much, Sarah, downloaded and reading. Terrific!

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