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Snide jokes are fuelling teenage prejudice, 15-year-old warns Town Hall

Community cohesion debate hears call to ask tech giants to do more to stop the spread of hate speech

11 October, 2018 — By Richard Osley

Asma Maloumi speaking in front of councillors

A 15-YEAR-OLD girl warned the Town Hall on Monday that thoughtless humour among her peers was fuelling prejudice which left ethnic minority groups feeling isolated in Camden.

Deputy youth MP Asma Maloumi spoke in front of an all-member meeting, telling councillors that she regularly heard young people talk in “xenophobic, anti-semitic and Islamophobic ways”.

“It’s upsetting how this can be seen more and more all over Camden and all over my generation,” she said. “For example, I recently heard comments on the C2 bus to school made by a 12-year-old boy amongst his friends – I’ll call him Danny for reference – about how he thinks his Somali neighbours should star in the next Pirates Of The Caribbean movie. His exact words..”

Miss Maloumi added: “Perhaps he was joking, and I didn’t confront him about it – I should’ve, it’s something I regret – but imagine if, instead of me, sitting behind Danny was a young Somali boy. He would hear these comments about his own identity. The result of this? Over time he would adapt himself to what my social studies textbook calls a criminal deviation spiral. Because young people belonging to some ethnic groups hear ignorant criticism of their identity so often, it is easy to spot how they begin to fit and adapt their behaviour to what people already presume of them.”

Ms Maloumi, the youngest speaker at recent meetings of the council, said schools, community centres, youth clubs and media outlets needed to do more to celebrate diversity and break down “narrow beliefs” which she said were often revealed “in the form of humour” or “snide comments”.

She suggested talks and workshops and “anything that can help little kids like Danny take a step back”, adding: “Young people should have stronger access to the idea that within Camden differences are valid and it’s these differences that make us equal.”

She joined the meeting as one of seven speakers taking part in a debate on community cohesion.

Neil Moss, from Camden Faith Leaders’ Forum, had told the meeting how the group had tried to bring different religious groups together.

One of his suggestions was for councillors to not only marvel at the arrival of the world’s biggest tech companies who are building headquarters in Camden, but to also ask them to tackle the way hate is spread across internet.

He said: “I’m proud that so many fantastic, creative digital and technology companies are based in Camden. I’m also too aware of the rise of hate speech in society. Muslims are seeing a rise in Islamophobia, there’s been a sharp rise in xenophobia, and social media is polluted with homophobia, misogyny, racism and antisemitism.”

Neil Moss

Mr Moss added: “As councillors, next time you visit these shining technology companies, please encourage senior executives to become part of the solution. Please remind them that as Camden local businesses, they too have a social responsibility to promote cohesion.”

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