Dubai: With the participation of some leading political figures, academics, and most of the “active and dynamic” NGOs in Europe and North America, the first European Islamophobia summit opens on Friday in Sarajevo.

The three-day summit aims to discuss ways to put an end to the growing phenomenon of Islamophobia and increasing number of hate crimes.

The goal of Sarajevo summit is “to understand the phenomenon of islamophobia across Europe and North America and then to come up with some concrete proposals on how various governments across Europe and north America can work together to help resolve these issues,” Muddassar Ahmad, Director of the European Islamophobia Summit told Gulf News.

Ahmad, who is also member of the summit advisory panel and Patron of the Faiths Forum for London, hailed the participation of most of the western NGOs that are involved in the topic.

Governments, NGOs

“While governments have a huge role to play, I believe that NGOs have also an equally important role to play… In addition, I think the NGO sector has been leading actually the efforts to work against islamophobia.”

In some European countries, some NGOs are way more effective than governments and very dynamic. We are very lucky to have most of those NGOs working on these issues are represented in our summit,” he added.

Among the participants, former British Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, Chairman of Bosnia’s Presidency, Bakir Izetbegovic, Founder of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), Bernard Kouchner, and the Grand Mufti of Sarajevo, Hussain Kavazovic amongst others — as well as representatives from across 17 European nations and different faith communities.

Participating societies include the British counter-racism group, ‘Hope Not Hate’, The European Forum of Muslim Women and the Turkish think-tank Seta, along with many researchers and academics.

Major challenge

“Islamophobia represents a major challenge to European democracy, freedoms and its values of tolerance and pluralism,” Academic Advisor to the Summit, Dr. Farid Hafez of Salzburg University was quoted as saying in a press statement.

“Against the backdrop of calls by US Presidential candidate Donald Trump to ban Muslims from entering the USA and Hungary’s Prime Minister and upcoming EU President and Slovak Prime Minister both stating Islam has no place in their countries, the need for a Summit uniting political, academic, media and civil society leaders against Islamophobia is timelier than ever,” Hafez added.

Commenting on the difference of hate crimes and islamophobia in Europe and North America, Ahmad explained to Gulf News: “I think the islamophobia in Europe and northern America are quite similar.

"There are many similarities and some differences. Of Course, they are coming from the same far-right movements,” he added.

But the hate is being funded and coming from the same ideological mind-set, Ahmad said.

While America does not have to cope with the influx of Muslim migrants like Europe recently had with the migrants from Syria, North America has an “indigenous Muslim community,” which is the African Muslim community, he added.

Hate crimes against Muslims in Europe and North America includes verbal attacks, physical attacks, discrimination in employment, and stereotyping in media.

“Islamophobia manifests itself in many many ways,” said Ahmad.

“As an example, when we sent the invitation, one semi-respectable journalist replied by saying islamophobia stops when Muslims stop killing people,” Ahmad added.

Many terrorists groups around the world use Islam’s name in killing people.

Some analysts correlate the rising of terrorists groups, their attacks, and the political and security chaos in many parts of the Middle East.

“I think the lack of solutions to issues in the Middle East is why we have political terrorism, yes. But I do not think this is why we have Islamophobia. And you have to make the distinction between the two,” he said.

No connection

“When you look at a young man in Oxford who has been beaten up because he is a Muslim, that has nothing to do with politics in the Middle East,” Ahmad said.

Earlier, Ahmad was quoted in a press statement about the choice of Sarajevo as the location for the first European Islamophobia Summit is notable.

“Because Bosnia’s history is an example of what can happen when anti-Muslim and racist rhetoric goes unabated. Not far from Sarajevo in Srebrenica, the 21st anniversary of the massacre of 8,000 Muslims will be commemorated just days after the European Islamophobia Summit.”