Can Europe Make It?

Rich Conversations at the World Forum for Democracy 2015 in Strasbourg (1)

The World Forum for Democracy 2015 ran 'lab sessions' on innovative initiatives connected to the Forum's key themes. Rich Conversations emerges from those sessions. On hate speech.

Cécile Kyenge Qanta Ahmed
9 March 2016

In each case these conversations address the divides that afflict our societies in ways that help to heal them. Here, dealing with hate speech.

This Lab discussed the different measures that are being taken in democratic countries to rise to the challenges of hate speech, old and new. The three discussants were Qanta Ahmed (British journalist and human rights advocate), Paul Giannisi (British police superintendent, leader of a Cross-governmental Hate Crime Program in the UK's Ministry of Justice), and Cécile Kyenge (a member of the Italian Parliament and the European Parliament).

Cecile Kyenge

Cecile KyengeCécile Kyenge thinks that together we should identify a limit to free speech which we should not overstep. She gives a few examples of such hate speech, like the example of Marine Le Pen denouncing “bacterial immigration” in terms which can only increase prejudices against refugees. But one of the examples is closer to home. She was targeted by fellow parliamentarians for being black in a context which she refers to with the term, “afrophobia”. She was repeatedly insulted when she was a member of the government and the Senate never recognized this insult. She thinks that we need to have a new initiative in educational discourses to tackle the problem at root. 

Qanta Ahmed said that she is combating Islamism and anti-Semitism. She stressed that there is extreme speech which is not necessarily hate speech. As an example she used President Bush who after 9/11 said: “you are either with or against us”. She thinks that Islamophobia is a very complicated subject. She is a Muslim but she thinks the media won’t recognize her as Muslim without a headscarf.

There is an acute and growing tension between the concern for safety and the protection of our freedoms. How do we handle this? Read more from the World Forum for Democracy partnership.

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