United for Peace

A conversation with Mike Haines and Ahmad Nawaz

20th April 2016

“Thank you for such an inspiring event on Wednesday. There were some very powerful messages. One girl that I asked described it as awesome and that it made her think completely differently about the issues raised. Some of our Sixth Form students have decided that they will follow it up by doing assemblies for younger year groups based on the same theme.  Please pass on my thanks to Ahmad and Mike, they have truly made a difference.”

 

Mr. Paul McAteer

Executive Headteacher

Slough & Eton Church of England Business and Enterprise College

 

 

The United for Peace day on 20th April 2016 consisted of two major events:

 

  1. United for Peace: A conversation with Mike Haines and Ahmad Nawaz. This was delivered in partnership with the Independent State Schools Partnership (ISSP) and hosted at Slough and Eton Church of England Business and Enterprise College, Chalvey, Slough, Berkshire.  The ISSP brought together 6th formers from seven schools around 60 in total. 

  2. United for Peace: Three Counties United Against Extremism Service of readings, silent reflection and beautiful music.

 

Our two guests were:

 

Mike Haines (short biography)

 

Mike Haines’ brother David Haines was a British aid worker who was beheaded by ISIS. David had been working for the international relief agency, Acted, when in March 2013 he was ambushed and kidnapped on the Turkish border and held captive in Syria for 18 months. In September 2014 a video of his murder was released.  Since his brother’s death, Mike Haines has travelled the world, spreading a message of unity, tolerance and understanding.

 

Ahmad Nawaz (short biography)

 

Ahmad Nawaz survived the terrorist attack on his school in Peshawar, Pakistan, but lost his younger brother, Haris.  He has been receiving treatment for his injuries at the Queen Elizabeth hospital in Birmingham.  Ahmad is passionate about education and travels across the country sharing his story and his vision for peace.

 

We were received at the school by Paul McAteer, Executive Headteacher, Slough and Eton Church of England Business and Enterprise College in Chalvey, Slough, Berkshire and invited to lunch with Mr McAteer.  The quality of the food was exceptional for which a hearty thank you to the catering team at the school.

 

Format of Proceedings

 

  1. Welcome by Paul McAteer, Executive Headteacher, Slough and Eton Church of England Business and Enterprise College in Chalvey, Slough, Berkshire.

  2. Introduction to the day and the work of The Oxford Foundation by Imam Monawar Hussain.

  3. Dr. John Breadon, Director, The Wisdom Project and Chaplain, Eton College, Chaired the remaining part of the proceedings.

  4. Mike Haines shared his powerful personal story and his commitment to developing understanding, peace and respect between communities.

  5. Ahmad Nawaz shared his moving story about the attack on his school and how that has completely changed his life.  He spoke about his commitment to fighting violent extremists through education

  6. Q & A

 

Break up into groups to discuss two key questions:

 

  1. What do you, as a young person think, has been the impact of terrorist attacks in the UK and abroad, on your local community?

  2. What can we do to ensure that our communities in the United Kingdom are resilient to violent extremists? Provide three key actions that your group would recommend.

 

Plenary

 

What do you, as a young person think, has been the impact of terrorist attacks in the UK and abroad, on your local community?

 

  • “One impact I have faced [as a young Muslim] is that people misunderstand terrorists as Muslims through media and other sources. This means that some people look at other Muslims and assume they all are the same too!” So there is rise of Islamophobia and racism

  • Has spurred debate

  • There is an increase in fear/suspicion – in this instance terrorism is working because they aim to divide our communities/society

  • Dividing our community – creates tensions

  • Benefits fascist and far-right politicians/groups to gain support

  • There are many instances where the impact of terrorism has been the opposite of what terrorists intended – it has brought communities together and increased unity.  This is primarily the case in communities that are diverse but integrated

  • Creating tensions within Muslim communities around sectarian lines

  • There is a very real danger of people becoming desensitised to violence/aggression

  • There is fear about discussing extremism/terrorism in school because students think they’ll get reported to the police or ‘labelled’.  The danger of this is that debate and discussion is being stifled in the classroom thereby leaving students much more vulnerable

 

What can we do to ensure that our communities in the United Kingdom are resilient to violent extremists? Provide three key actions that your group would recommend?

 

  • Promote key messages/ideas through school assemblies to encourage students to become more active in spotting radicalisation and challenge violent extremist ideas

  • Encourage community cohesion through multi-faith gatherings and fund raising activities for charitable work in communities and internationally

  • Using social media – e.g. twitter, Facebook or aid of films, TV, radio, to raise awareness of terrorism, its impact on individuals and educate young people so that they can have a ‘resilient counter narrative’ to violent extremists

  • Encourage honest media reporting to present both sides and not just let a tiny group of extremists define a whole community.  This can potentially help prevent polarisation and also empower mainstream voices of the Muslim community

  • Not allowing the oxygen of publicity to terrorists and extremists of all persuasions

  • Carry out campaigns to encourage tolerance and togetherness

  • Encourage people to participate in focus groups and discussions to find solutions together to challenges facing our communities

  • Treat all forms of violent extremism the same

  • Better education about different faiths and cultures so that young people and adults understand each other better

  • Challenge the narrative of IS/ISIS through utilising real life stories of survivors or families of victims of terrorist violence

  • Reaching out to minorities and general population and ensuring they have equal opportunities to be successful

  • Imams spreading awareness during Jum’ah (Friday) prayers

  • Educational workshops that allow for open debate and discussion in a way that is sensitive and that allows ideas to be challenged especially around misinterpretation of scripture

 

The Oxford Foundation wishes to thank:

 

Ahmad Nawaz and Mike Haines for sharing their powerful stories.

 

Mr Paul McAteer, Headteacher, Slough and Eton Church of England Business and Enterprise College in Chalvey, Slough, Berkshire.

 

Dr John Breadon, Director, The Wisdom Project and Chaplain, Eton College, for being an excellent Chair of the discussions.

 

Independent State Schools Partnership [Eton College, Slough and Eton, The Langley Academy, St. Joseph’s, Beechwood, Windsor Boys’ and Heston Community College].

 

Kaleem Hussain, The Oxford Foundation representative for the West Midlands and Buckinghamshire.

 

Slough & Eton catering staff for a most delicious lunch!

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