16767822830_a6fa04a8e8_o EW

Even in a world of uncertainties, some things are certain.

We know the year ahead is going to be a rollercoaster ride. We’ve learned to expect the unexpected, knowing that opinion polls and experts will once again get it wrong in forecasting election results.

And across the world, there will be even more venom, racism and hate directed at refugees, migrants and minorities – led, unfortunately, by the United States and Europe.

US President-elect Donald Trump and Europe’s far-right populists have already made Muslim-baiting their favourite sport. Their anti-Islam rants have unsurprisingly triggered a surge in real-life hate crimes and online hate speech against Muslims, migrants and refugees. Anti-Semitic attacks and social media posts are also on the rise.

It’s going to get worse. With Marine Le Pen in France, Geert Wilders in the Netherlands and Frauke Petry of the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) in Germany seeking even more headlines and voters in upcoming polls, there will be no let-up in anti-Muslim hate-mongering in Europe.

“Truth, courtesy and facts are out. Lies, insults and dishonesty are in”

Migrants and refugees in Europe are getting a large share of the poison. The EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency warns that the arrival of asylum seekers and migrants in large numbers, combined with reactions to terrorist attacks in a number of European Union countries, has contributed to a “more open manifestation of racism, xenophobia and intolerance in public discourse”.

Social media has, of course, made hate crime and incitement to hatred much easier. Statements posted online spread quickly and widely, making it difficult to challenge them and to remove them completely.

Overnight, we have become used to a post-truth world of lying politicians. Truth, courtesy and facts are out. Lies, insults and dishonesty are in. Bullying and hate-mongering represent the ‘new normal’.

It’s time to start practicing the necessary art of say no to spreading hate.

It won’t be easy. But many people are taking up the challenge. Just this month, three high-level conferences are taking a closer look at ways to stop the ‘hate game’.

The EU, Canada, the United States and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) hosted a high-level forum this week on combating anti-Muslim discrimination and hatred. The event, held at the United Nations in New York, looked at government policies to combat anti-Muslim hate, stressed the need for coalition building and discussed new narratives to promote pluralism and inclusion.

“Conferences and codes of conduct – even legislation – are not enough. Everyone has to pitch in”

The Maltese government, which holds the presidency of the EU Council, and the European Commission will hold an event in Brussels on 25 January to explore ways to change negative perceptions of migration through an evidence-based, forward-looking and balanced narrative.

And a day later the European External Action Service and the UN Alliance of Civilisations will focus on improving the quality of media coverage of migrants, promoting ethical journalism and preventing hate speech on the internet.

But conferences and codes of conduct – even legislation – are not enough. Everyone has to pitch in to ensure that anti-discrimination laws are enforced, xenophobic politicians are taken to task and media – social and traditional – stops inciting hatred.

The forum in New York underlined that civil society has a key role to play in building inter-faith and inter-ethnic coalitions to combat discrimination and create positive stories of societies built on pluralism, diversity and inclusion.

Hate and discrimination may be just something that happens to ‘them’, those ‘others’ in our midst. But when xenophobia goes mainstream, society and democracy are endangered. And everyone suffers.

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IMAGE CREDIT: CC/Flickr – SAJV CSAJ