HOPE not hate

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Why we launched a ‘tea drinking’ campaign

posted by: Nick Lowles | on: Saturday, 26 September 2015, 08:54


Earlier this summer, HOPE not hate published an exclusive report into the activities of a group of anti-Muslim activists, desperate to use a Muhammad cartoons exhibition as a cover to push some Muslims into violent counter-reaction over insults to their Prophet.

Thanks in part to that exposé, the exhibition was cancelled and chief organiser, Anne Marie-Waters (of Sharia Watch and UKIP) was left to ineffectually vent her spleen, alongside co-conspirator ‘Tommy Robinson’ (ex-EDL leader) and former EDL financier Alan Ayling, after former Britain First founder Jim Dowson revealed the secret meeting at which all three had discussed the possibility of igniting unrest.

Whilst it’s important to expose and oppose those who incite hatred, it’s equally important to work with and between differing communities that could be targeted by extremists – whether they happen to Muslim, anti-Muslim, far-right or any other shade of organised hater – and that’s why we came up with the idea for a tea-drinking campaign.

Not the usual stuff of HOPE not hate anti-fascism? Think again. For years, now, we’ve been working with vulnerable and marginalised communities – white, non-white, religious, non-religious – in target areas up and down the UK isles. Our aim is to act as a facilitator, allowing ordinary people, who might never otherwise meet, to see one another and understand they all shared their local community’s best interest at heart. It’s not enough to shout from the barricades and tell people what to do: you have to mix and meet, listen to concerns, before you can effect change.

Our Cup of Tea’ was born as a response to the attempts to incite by those behind the Muhammad cartoons plot, and is being led by the fantastic organiser Julie Siddiqi, who also took a key part in the ‘Walk Together’ response to the 7/7 10th anniversary.

At its heart is the simple cuppa and a simple concept: let’s meet and talk.

Already, we’ve had events where Jewish women have met Muslim women in north-west London, on the eve of the Jewish New Year; there have been ‘hope not hate’ cakes baked by female worshippers at a mosque in Leicester for local police and businesses; £500 raised for refugees during a ‘tea meeting’ organised by The Sheba Project in east London; a vicar and imam working together over a pot of tea; whilst former England rugby league player Ikram Butt enjoyed tea with fellow (non-Muslim) fans at an England cricket match against Australia; and much, much more examples.

Even former Spurs boss Harry Redknapp added his support to the initiative.

The point is: we’re not claiming a cup of tea will solve the world’s problems alone. But not talking will certainly increase the chance of divide and misunderstanding. Whilst the social media revolution has been a fantastic innovation in many ways, don’t you sometimes just miss the chance to talk, face-to-face … to learn something new?

We don’t think we should be scared of one another; of talking. And it’s by talking we’ll forge better understanding – even if we still disagree with one another – and prevent the seeds of fear, and hatred, ever having a chance to take root.

We do not pretend everything is perfect and nor do we believe that is only a question of the ignorant and misguided seeing the light. We recognize that there are many real issues out there and some of the concerns and anxieties between communities, faiths and ideologies are very real and deep. But the only way we are going to change this is by dialogue and interaction. We can’t force people to get along together, likewise we also recognize that all too often good-meaning people rarely come into contact with people from different communities or with those who hold very different ideas. Our Cup of Tea is an attempt to change that.

So while the cartoon exhibition was cancelled we went ahead with this initiative, even in a more limited form. It was a statement of intent about how we plan to operate and engage in the future.

These sorts of community engagements are as much of an anti-racist or anti-fascist act as going on a demonstration or leafleting a community. It is about winning hearts and minds, engaging with ordinary people and it is about changing minds through direct engagement.

So why not take a cup of tea with someone new from your local community this autumn? Builder’s brew or Earl Grey, mint tea or herbal, it doesn’t really matter. Enjoy your cuppa and find new friends out there in your community.

Visit ‘Our Cup of Tea’ on facebook

 Posted: 26 Sep 2015 | There are 0 comments | make a comment/view comments

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Refugees are our football family

posted by: Nick Lowles | on: Tuesday, 15 September 2015, 09:04


HOPE not hate is linking up with Philosophy Football and several other football organisations to raise money and collect necessary goods for refugees and migrants stranded on the continent.

While Philosophy Football focus on raising money through the sale of a new ‘Refugees are our Football Family’ T-shirt, HOPE not hate supporters will be raising money and organising collections locally.

All profits from sales and goods collected will go to Doctors of the World who staff the only medical clinic operating in the Calais Refugee Camp. They also have other clinics in refugee camps across the Middle East, North Africa and Europe.

“Football is the most universal of sports with an international spread that goes back a century or more,” says Philosophy Football’s Mark Perryman. “From the legend that was Puskas to one of today’s most recognisable players Zlatan Ibrahimović refugees have always been part of our football family. The Swiss squad that went to World Cup 2014 included no less than seven players who were refugees from conflicts in the Balkans.”

‘The Football Family’ is an establishment term in football, devoid of almost any meaning or purpose. But as columnist Marina Hyde has pointed out the refugee crisis is a time when it could, should, acquire some much-needed meaning ‘If such a thing can ever be said to exist, then this issue gripping Europe should be among the very closest to its heart.’

And so an initiative, ‘Refugees are our football family’, has been launched by Philosophy Football backed by Hope not Hate, the Football Supporters Federation, Football Action Network, Football Against Racism in Europe, Football Beyond Borders, Kick it Out and the fanzine When Saturday Comes.

Philosophy Football has produced the campaign’s fundraising T-shirt and all profits from sales go to Doctors of the World.

The T-shirt fund will be backed by dozens of HOPE not hate supporters who have volunteered to organise local fundraising and collections of necessary good. With winter fast approaching, the need for warm clothing and blankets will be vital.

More information about these collections and how our supporters can get involved will be posted up in the next 24 hours.

Raising funds will be the principle focus accompanied by a symbolic solidarity. As Winter approaches conditions in the camps will worsen. Fans from every club across Britain and beyond are being asked to send in old club scarves. Woollens are on the list of goods the Refugee charities most need and we can help out with our old scarves taken to the camp by a Wembley to Calais convoy. From one home of football a powerful symbol of the kind of humanitarian hospitality all fans can be proud of.

Refugees are Our Football Family T-shirt available from www.philosophyfootball.com

To get involved in the HOPE not hate collection operation please sign up here:
http://action.hopenothate.org.uk/page/s/our-window

 Posted: 15 Sep 2015 | There are 0 comments | make a comment/view comments

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We have a small window to push our case

posted by: Nick Lowles | on: Monday, 7 September 2015, 14:46


How one small body washed up on a Turkish beach seems to have changed everything. Disembarking refugees at Munich railway station being greeted by cheering crowds; 10,000 people in Iceland opening their doors to those who need accommodation; thousands of volunteers organising food drops. Literally millions of people across the continent donating money to help those in need.

Even here in Britain the mood has changed. After ruling out accepting any more refugees, David Cameron has now agreed to take in "thousands" of Syrian refugees (even if none of them are presently in Europe). The Sun has launched an appeal to bring 3,500 Syrian orphans to Britain and a highly skeptical, even hostile, British public is demanding action.

But we all know this unless we organise around this moment of HOPE then this mood will not last. Fatigue will set in, pledges will
be broken and soon the press and politicians will revert back to their
immigrant-bashing ways.

In fact, some are already trying to close and bolt up the window. The leaders of several Eastern European countries have co-signed a letter rejecting any EU-enforced quota system. The Austrian Chancellor today said there had been enough generosity the borders now had to be closed. And yesterday, the Independent reported that the EU was planning a new pan-European border force with the power to arrest and deport economic migrants.

And soon these cracks in our humanitarian kindness will break wider and just as fast as young Aylan Kurdi’s body shocked and moved a continent, so could the angry and resentful voices could return but only angrier than ever.

In Germany alone there has been over 200 attacks on accommodation intended for asylum seekers and refugees. In Hungary, far right activists attacked refugees in Budapest. In Britain, it won’t be long before some sections of the press revert to form and carry highly inflammatory and abuse headlines.

Only next week we are expecting the publication of the new Immigration Bill which, among other things, will force landlords to evict undocumented tenants or face fines or even prison.

So, with the time ticking, we just have a small window of opportunity in which to make long-term changes.

We need to not only ensure that support continues to be given to the refugees currently on the move across Europe but that a long-term strategy is agreed by the European Union that treats people as humans in need rather than a problem that needs to be kept out of our continent at all costs.

We also need to raise awareness and build solidarity to the refugees and migrants already in the UK, many living in absolutely appalling conditions and destitution. All of which will be compounded by the draconian new Immigration Bill.

After consulting with our supporters and receiving feedback from over 1,800 people, we have decided to do three main things:

1) To call for a fairer deal for refugees and migrants, including those living in destitution in the UK;
2) To raise money and collect essential items for those in need across the continent as winter approaches;
3) Oppose the forthcoming Immigration Act, which will instantly criminalise hundreds of thousands of undocumented people in the UK.

We will produce a leaflet and simple fact sheets for distribution to the public. We will build solidarity and joint actions with refugee and migrant groups. We will raise awareness amongst key people in local communities so they can spread the word amongst their own networks.

We have even chosen the 10 October as a date to deliver aid to the Continent and we are currently in discussions with refugee groups, aid agencies, football supporter groups, trade unions and faith networks about working together on this project.

Plans are at a very early stage but the general idea is to have aid collection points across the UK and for them to converge at a central point in Kent before crossing to the continent.

We will ensure that only items that are necessary are collected and our effort will be coordinated with an NGO and refugee organisations. While some will go to Calais, there will also be an option to raise money to support a project further afield, like one of the smaller Greek islands that currently is receiving little outside assistance.

And of course the two elements – the leafleting and the aid effort – will be complementary. As we raise support for the latter, we also raise consciousness about the general condition of refugees.

This campaign – as you can imagine – is evolving and hopefully I’ll be able to report some concrete details within the next few days, but whatever the final plans we will need help. Your help.

We need people who can lead an action or collection in their own area. We will provide you with a 'How to' guide on running a local action and support you along the way.

Are you willing to lead on an event in your area? We already have 41 people around the country offering to lead but it will be great to double that number.

If you are willing to organise then please do sign up here

http://action.hopenothate.org.uk/page/s/our-window

We have a small window to push for genuine and long-term help for refugees before the climate sours. Let's use it

 Posted: 7 Sep 2015 | There are 0 comments | make a comment/view comments