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Interview with Samia Hathroubi, french activist for human rights

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Interview with Samia Hathroubi, activist for human rights and pluralism in Europe.

- How would you describe yourself and your work?

I’m an activist for human rights, and for pluralism in Europe. I work with faith leaders and social activists from different backgrounds to take a stand for each other, especially on anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.
I also contribute to social, political and academic debates on those issues via my conferences and writing.

- How do you manage these forms of discrimination in practice?

In practice, our work is on different levels and aims at different goals.
The first one is to inform our leaders in Europe about the different situations that a community can face in its own country.

We have created a European Muslim and Jewish network and a rapid response committee to be able to act and react to crises (e.g. Copenhagen, Paris).
We also tend to work with European leaders (MEPs, organisations, political leaders) to make our voices heard on Islamophobia and anti-Semitism, and in doing so, we strive to express the strong need for interfaith relations in order to strengthen understanding between the Muslim and Jewish communities.

On a grass-roots level in Europe and North Africa, we organise "The Week-end of Twinning" every November (currently in our 7th edition), during which we foster, encourage and/or coordinate events, conferences, and social services with the Muslim and Jewish communities. During those events, a point is always made about the need to struggle against any kind of faith-based prejudice. We want to create a relationship of solidarity, a sense of "fighting" for each other, Jews standing up for and with Muslims, and vice-versa.

- Are there similar points in the struggle between these two forms of racism?

We tend to say and think that the roots of those two forms of racism are probably not the same. Europe has a long (perhaps too long?) history of hatred towards Jews which led to the Holocaust and, on the other hand, hatred towards Arabs and Muslims is linked to the colonisation of Africa, and we should never forget the legacy of Algeria and its war when it comes to the French treatment of Islam.

Nevertheless, we believe that today, Muslims and Jews are the targets first of the far-Right parties even if they try to pit to Jews against Islam, and this is what needs to bring us together.

At the end of the day what leads us is the strong sense of universal values and social justice. We do think and strongly believe that Europe can’t be this great continent of moral values if Muslims and Jews feel threatened...

- What is pedagogy and prevention’s place in this fight?

I am aware of the great work done by Muslim and Jewish leaders in their own communities towards their own constituencies, but also by reaching out to each other. Many of the mosques in France and the UK with whom I work have built or participated in the “Visit My Mosque” Campaign in order to tackle ignorance and misbeliefs against Islam.

Months ago, one of the imams in the Netherlands launched the campaign called “My Jihad” to bring positive narratives of this concept.

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