Islamophobia: what is it and why does it occur? Speaking out against prejudice and discrimination

Introduction

Background information and didactical perspective

Many schools in Europe have significant numbers of Muslim students on their rolls. Some of these pupils were born in Europe, while others arrived there from other regions at some point during their lifetimes. Studies have shown that Muslims in Europe frequently experience discrimination and prejudice due to their religion. This module explores issues around Islamophobia as an example of discrimination and looks at ways of speaking out against it.

The first two lessons in the module explore the workings of discrimination and look at various forms in which it occurs. A role-play exercise enables pupils to experience the diversity of perspectives and experience relating to discrimination. After this, pupils are introduced to the concept of Islamophobia as hostility towards individual Muslims.

The module’s third lesson is intended to engage pupils with anti-Muslim discrimination and ways of tackling it.

Learning outcomes

Competencies
How discrimination works and its impact on people; stepping into someone else’s shoes and empathising with their point of view (multiperspectivity); developing a view on political and social issues and reflecting upon that view; non-violent solutions to conflicts of differing interests; describing strategies for action against discrimination; open and non-violent conflict resolution and approaching others and their views with respect (values orientation)
Topics / National curriculum
People and society; accepting difference and diversity; rejecting inhumane attitudes and acts within society; respect for differences among people; recognising the subjective nature of emotions and points of view; pluralism and acting to protect and maintain democracy; issues around discrimination and speaking out against it. Supporting students to speak up for their views
Islamophobia: what is it and why does it occur?
  • Suitable age
    13-16
  • Time frame
    4 x 45 min.
  • Required materials
    smartphones/computer with internet access for students; computer with internet access and attached projector;
  • Description
    This module explores issues around Islamophobia as an example of discrimination and looks at ways of speaking out against it.
  • Subjects / Topics
    Social Studies/Civic Education

Lesson plan

Abbreviations:

  • A = Activity
  • D = Discussion
  • GW = Group work
  • HW = Homework
  • PW = Partnerwork
  • PTS = Previous Teacher’s Study
  • PO = Pupils opinions
  • PP = Pupil’s presentations
  • TP = Teacher’s presentation

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Phase Content Type of activity Media, Material

Role play
(15 min.)

Objective
  • Pupils will recognise various forms of discrimination and explore the effects of a range of characteristics of individual identity on societal mobility.
  • They will gain an awareness of the unequal distribution of opportunity in society via a process of ‘walking a mile in the shoes’ of members of minority groups.
  • Pupils will experience and explore empathy with people affected by discrimination and reflect on their own position in society.
Preparation
  • The role-play exercise ‘A step ahead’ requires a room with enough space for all pupils to stand in a row and move forward a few steps.
  • It is advisable to schedule a generous amount of time for discussion and analysis afterwards, as some pupils may find the exercise triggers memories of experiences of discrimination. Ideally, a double lesson or comparable period of time should be available, so the discussion is not rushed but there is still enough time in between for the ‘All mix up’ game, which is important for redirecting pupils‘ focus from differences towards shared experiences and factors.
  • The pupils should be instructed to respond to the prompts/statements in the way they subjectively consider most appropriate. Their task will be to ‘step into another’s shoes’, or, specifically, into the shoes of a person who is not necessarily aligned with the dominant societal culture. The purpose of the exercise is to provide pupils with a sense of how discrimination can arise from inequality.
Execution
  • Step 1 After announcing the exercise, the teacher gives each pupil one of the role cards in M1. Depending on class size, the same card will probably have to be given to several pupils.
  • Step 2 The teacher instructs the pupils to look at their role, but not to tell the others which role they have. Pupils are now given a couple of minutes to consider the possibilities and limitations that come with their role.
    • The teacher might ask: ‘What are you able or allowed to do [in your role], and what is closed to you?’
  • Step 3 Pupils form a row.
  • Step 4 The teacher now reads out the seven statements in M2. If the pupils, in their roles, can agree the statement is true for them, they take a step forward. If not, or if they aren’t sure, they remain where they are.
It is important to tell the pupils to take steps (or not) according to their own subjective view. They should also be asked not to talk during the exercise.
  • TP
  • A
M1
Role cards “A step ahead”
M2
Statements for role play exercise “A step ahead”

Discussion
(10 min.)

  • Step 1 Now the pupils will be standing in the room in their roles, some further forward and some behind. The teacher leads into an initial analysis of the experience by asking the pupils to think about where they are and why.
  • Step 2 The teacher should choose a few pupils – in various states of advancement – to report on their experience, asking them the following questions:
    • How did you feel ‘as’ your role?
    • How does it feel to be ahead of the others/behind/in the middle?
    • When did the pupils who advanced quickly notice that others were being left behind?
    • When did the ones left behind notice that others were getting ahead of them?
    • How did it feel to be lagging behind while others advanced?
    • What would they like to say to those further ahead?
  • Step 3 After this, pupils tell one another what their roles were.
  • Step 4 The teacher should point out to the pupils that those left behind soon realise that they are disadvantaged, while those who advance more quickly often don’t notice until the end that others are not keeping up.
  • D
  • PO

Leaving the roles
(10 min.)

  • Step 1 The teacher asks the pupils to set up a circle of chairs, with one chair fewer than the number of pupils, and explains they are going to play a game called ‘All mix up if you…’. This will help the pupils transition out of their roles and become ‘themselves’ again, and release any tensions caused by any past experiences the exercise may have triggered.
  • Step 2 The pupil without a chair stands in the middle of the circle and thinks of a characteristic that as many pupils as possible share with him or her: examples might be place of birth, clothing, religion, having siblings, etc. Then he or she says: ‘All mix up if you… (have any brothers or sisters, live in [home town], are wearing red, use WhatsApp, etc.)’.
  • Step 3 Everyone who has the characteristic named by the pupil now gets up and finds a new chair. The pupil originally in the middle also tries to sit down somewhere. The pupil left without a chair at the end now has a turn at naming a new characteristic.
  • Step 4 The pupil in the middle has the option of saying simply ‘All mix up’. Then everyone gets up and finds a new chair.
  • A

Discussion
(10 min.)

  • The pupils stay in the circle (and the one without a chair fetches one and joins it). The teacher now leads a discussion as follows:
    • How did you feel during the role play?
    • Were you able to empathise with your role and the person’s situation?
    • Was it easy or difficult to decide whether you could take a step forward or not? Why? Which statements were particularly hard to decide on?
    • Which statements are still making you think now?
  • D
  • PO
Additional material
  • white board
Phase Content Type of activity Media, Material

Introduction
(10 min.)

Objective
  • Pupils will gain knowledge about the workings of Islamophobia and link it to the experience of the role-play exercise.
  • They will learn about the current situation in Europe as regards Islamophobia and about various manifestations of the phenomenon.
Preparation
  • The teacher should have read Material 3 in order to be ready to give the pupils a brief outline of what Islamophobia is and how it manifests.
Execution
  • Step 1 The teacher should first explain to the pupils that Muslims are one of the groups in European societies that experience discrimination. He or she asks the pupils for their thoughts on the issue and makes notes of key points on the board or on pieces of paper or card to pin on the pinboard.
  • Step 2 Discussion starters:
    • What do you think of when you hear the term ‘Islamophobia’?
    • Who counts as a ‘Muslim’?
    • Who is Islamophobic discrimination directed against?
  • Step 3 Expectations:
    • Islamophobia – in its manifestation as hostility to Muslims – targets people who are Muslim, or (whether they actually are or not, and whether they are practising or not) are perceived as Muslim, and disparages and denigrates them on this basis.
    • Pupils should be allowed to voice critical opinions on Islam, but should be steered away from generalising, prejudicial, or sweeping statements. Islam is multi-faceted and there is no such thing as a ‘typical’ Muslim.
  • D
Additional material
  • board or pinboard

A closer look
(10 min.)

  • Step 1 The teacher gives the pupils a brief outline of the phenomenon of Islamophobia (on the basis of M3). The pupils make notes. They should be guided to note down information on the following points:
    • Which other facets of Islamophobia are there?
    • What are some examples of Islamophobia?
  • Step 2 Afterwards, the teacher should respond to any questions the pupils have regarding specific concepts.
  • Step 3 The pupils now give brief oral outlines of their notes, and the teacher adds information to the board or pinboard as appropriate.
  • TP
  • A
  • PP
M3
Background information “Islamophobia”
Additional material
  • board or pinboard

A closer look
(15 min.)

  • Step 1 The teacher asks the pupils what they know about fake news and explains as required.
  • Step 2 Contextualising ‘fake news’:
    • Fake news is a term applied to fictitious ‘news stories’ intended to give the impression that they are real and true. Some individuals and groupings use fake news to spread lies and propaganda about specific groups in society and to manipulate political debate. Fake news ‘stories’ make use of sensationalist headlines, staged or doctored images, and inaccurate assertions. Their principal channel of dissemination is online social media.
  • Step 3 The teacher now explains that fake news is used to spread hostility towards Muslims, especially online.
  • Step 4 The pupils watch an information video, ‘Fact checking’, produced by a Swedish association and a foundation:
  • Step 5 After checking in with the pupils and ensuring they have understood everything, the teacher hands out a worksheet (Material 5) and asks pupils to complete it with a partner.
  • Step 6 The pupils now watch the video again.
  • Step 7 They then complete the worksheet.
  • PO
  • TP
  • A
  • PW
M4
Video “Fact checking online”
M5
Worksheet “Fact checking online”

Transfer and knowledge checking
(15 min.)

  • Step 1 Pupils present their work to the rest of the class.
  • Step 2 The teacher’s role is to bring together the pupils’ responses and ideas about recognising fake news, add any that do not come up in the discussion, and put them up on the board.

Some important answers:

Some tell-tale characteristics of fake news may be: the same photograph used to illustrate different stories; source or author’s name not given; no information on the alleged events can be found on mainstream news sites or police web pages; photograph does not come up in a search engine (linked to any other sources).

  • ‘What can I do about it?’

Now the pupils discuss ways of combating the spread of hatred via fake news, and the teacher facilitates the discussion and displays ideas and thoughts on the board or pinboard.

Some important ideas:
  • Refute the alleged story (e.g. by leaving a comment)
  • Know how to make online tools work for you (e.g. comparing headlines using search engines)
  • Assess the source
  • Check pictures
  • Be aware
  • Report hate speech to the medium it appears in (e.g. Facebook)
  • PP
Phase Content Type of activity Media, Material

Introduction
(5 min.)

Objective
  • Pupils will explore discrimination against individual Muslims in everyday life and learn to recognise the forms it can take.
  • They will think about ways to speak up against discrimination and what they might do in a situation where they were faced with it happening; additionally, they will reflect on their own views.
Preparation
  • The teacher should have made sufficient copies of the dialogues for the role play (M6) beforehand.
  • The teacher will need a blackboard, whiteboard or pinboard and cards, as well as a table (for the shop counter) and a square scarf or similar as props for the role play.
Execution
  • Step 1 The teacher asks the pupils for their associations with the idea of ‘speaking out against discrimination’ or ‘speaking up for what is right’.
  • Step 2 The teacher proceeds to explain the task:
    • Having been divided into three groups, the pupils prepare, with their group, one of the three role-play dialogues, which they will perform to the rest of the class. Each group chooses four people for the roles. The role plays explore a situation in which a person suffers discrimination due to being (assumed to be) a Muslim. After each group has performed its scene, pupils complete a question sheet individually.
  • Step 3 The teacher hands out the dialogues and tells the pupils how much time they have to prepare.
  • Step 4 The teacher should keep an eye on how the pupils assign the roles and make sure that the role of the Muslim customer is not given to a Muslim pupil.
  • PO
  • GW
M6
Role play “At the bakery”

A closer look
(10 min.)

  • Step 1 The three groups of pupils each receive copies of their dialogue, which they can use during the ‘performance’ (i.e. they don’t have to learn their lines by heart).
  • Step 2 Each group now reads through the dialogue, chooses who will act it out, and assigns roles.
  • Step 3 The teacher supervises this process and may wish to encourage pupils to take on roles they would not identify with in real life.
  • Step 4 The groups discuss how they think the actors should play their roles.
  • Step 5 During preparation, the teacher sets up a table or a similar piece of furniture to serve as the shop counter during the role plays.
  • GW
M6
Role play “At the bakery”
Additional material
  • props for role play

A closer look
(10 min.)

  • Each group then acts out its dialogue. No discussion takes place between the performances.
  • PP

Reflection and knowledge transfer
(10 min.)

  • Step 1 After the role plays, the teacher uses prompt cards to make brief notes on the mood among the pupils.
  • Step 2 Questions the teacher might ask:
    • What did you think of those role plays?
    • What are your thoughts after having seen the three scenes?
  • Step 3 The teacher hands out the question sheet (Material 7), which the pupils now complete individually, perhaps looking for information online to help them.
  • PO
M7
Activity “At the bakery”
Additional material
  • board or pinboard
  • props for role play

Discussion
(10 min.)

  • Step 1 Some pupils volunteer or are chosen by the teacher to present their responses, and other pupils are encouraged to comment and add their thoughts. The teacher takes the class through the questions and the pupils discuss them together, with the teacher facilitating the discussion.
  • Step 2 Discussion starters:
    • How do you feel about being served in a shop by a woman wearing hijab?
    • Have you ever experienced discrimination?
    • Have you ever actively discriminated against someone else?
    • Have you ever witnessed or experienced a situation like the one in the role play?
    • If so, what did you think in the situation and how did you react?
    • Is it OK to refuse to serve a Muslim?
Nobody should be forced to talk about their experience of discrimination, and the teacher should steer pupils away from forming a hierarchy of different types of discrimination (e.g. ‘racism is worse than sexism’, or vice versa).

Legal aspects for the teacher to include in the discussion:

The EU mandated equal treatment of all individuals and prohibited discrimination in four framework directives issued between the years 2000 and 2006; one of them is the Race Equality Directive.

In Germany, the General Act on Equal Treatment (AGG) prohibits unequal treatment of individuals even in everyday interactions and transactions.

  • PP
  • D