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Islamic Awareness Week
6-13 November 2002

In recent years, a new word has gained currency. Islamophobia. 'It was coined in the late 1980s...and is a useful shorthand way of referring to dread or hatred of Islam - and therefore, to fear or dislike of all or most Muslims. Such dread and dislike have existed in western countries and cultures for several centuries. In the last twenty years, however, the dislike as become more explicit, more extreme and more dangerous.'
Islamophobia: A Challenge for us all, 1997

British Muslims are a diverse and vibrant community contributing to the well-being and prosperity of this nation in numerous ways. Yet, despite their important and varied contribution, they suffer significantly from various forms of discrimination, harassment and violence. These problems are rooted and find justification in ill-informed and stereotyped representations of Islam and Muslims.

Islam Awareness Week will be celebrated in Camden with a range of talks and discussions as well as a visual exhibition which will rotate to various venues around the borough in the coming months. The programme's objectives are to inform, educate, raise awareness and celebrate the depth and diversity of Islam in Camden and Britain at large.

Wednesday 6 November
Media and Misrepresentation of Islam, 6pm; Mander Hall, Hamilton House, Mabledon Place, London WC1H 9BD
Introduction: Jane Roberts, Leader of Camden Council
Chair: Sarah Joseph
Speakers: Faisal Bodi, Maqbool Javaid, Yvonne Ridley

This session will explore the role of the media in relation to the dramatic rise in Islamophobia, and look at who is really to blame. It will explore the current representation of Muslims, from sabre-wielding fanatics, Kalashnikov-toting terrorists, inveterate misogynists, to suspicious fifth-columnists, and question why such demonising stereotypes are consistently used to describe Muslims. Why are Muslims so vilified and misrepresented in the British media? The disturbing political connections will be explored further, and the motives that lie behind these misperceptions will be hotly debated.

Thursday 7 November
Women in Islam, 6pm; Hilda Porter Conference Hall, Methodist International Centre, 81-103 Euston Street, London NW1 2EZ
Chair: Kamaljit Poonia, Head of Equalities, Camden Council
Speakers: Kristiane Backer, Maleiha Malik, Fadi Itani

A hotly debated but perhaps the most misunderstood topic in Islam in modern
Britain: the media portrays a very negative picture of the position of women in Islam, and yet more British women convert to Islam each year compared to any other religion - four times more than male converts to Islam. What is the true position of women in Islam? This session will consider the gap between the treatment of women by Islam, and indigenous Muslim societies, as well as seeking to define the significance and dynamics of gender and their relationships in Islam.

Tuesday 12 November
Youth & Identity, 12-2pm; Council Chamber, Camden Town Hall, Judd Street, London WC1H 9JE
Chair: Ayesha Saeed, Equalities Officer, Camden Council
Speakers: Cllr. Nash Ali, Joe Ahmed-Dobson, Ash Rahman, Mothlib Miah, Sami Azam, Reedah Nijabat

Much has been written in the press recently about Muslim youth - rioters or role models? Misunderstood or marginalised? This discussion will draw in Muslim youth from a wide variety of backgrounds, from a youth worker, to a police officer, a community worker to a banker and deputy mayor. This session promises to be an interesting and lively forum to hear what the young Muslims of today have to say about faith and identity in their daily lives.

Tuesday 12 November
Islam in the West, 7pm; Council Chamber, Camden Town Hall, Judd Street, London WC1H 9JE
Chair: Cllr. John Dickie, Camden Council
Speakers: Sher Khan, Inayat Bunglawala
Performace: Reem Kelani

What springs to mind when we consider Islam in the West? Terrorism, fundamentalism, extremism, fanaticism are immediate thoughts, which have fast become closely associated with the teachings of Islam. And yet many people convert to Islam each year because of its teachings of love, tolerance, respect and its intellectual and spiritual appeal. What explains this huge gap in understanding? Come along, hear what Muslims themselves have to say, and be prepared to dispel any misconceived ideas.

Refreshments will be provided at all events.

An Exhibition on Islam will be showing at the lobby of the Council Chamber, Camden Town Hall throughout the week and will then tour throughout Camden libraries and other venues until the end of the year.