Civil society engaged to fight Islamophobia. The Polish LOI

The first meeting of the Local Observatory on Islamophobia (LOI) in Poland took place on 5th February, in Warsaw.

The choice of LOI members has been made after a series of meetings and discussions with potential members. Each LOI member represents different walks of life: one Muslim refugee from a region well represented in Poland (Caucasus), one Muslim activist, one academic researcher working with youth, one youth worker and activist and one professional working with youth with Muslim background.

This setting ensures that various groups of Muslims, both new arrivals and well-settled, as well as representing various countries, are somewhat given a voice in the LOI group.

The LOI members are:

Ms Anna Łukjanowicz – a representative of the Muslim Cultural Centre in Warsaw, which had been established by the Muslim League in Poland. The main goal of the Muslim Cultural Centre is to serve the needs of the local Muslim community in performing religious rites, represent its interests and to help them in integration with Polish society while maintaining a Muslim identity. The Centre implements also a comprehensive educational program targeted at general public and especially at pupils and teachers at the polish schools, but also students, adults and seniors. Their program gives the opportunity to learn about history and culture of Islam. Ms Łukjanowicz is in charge of educational programs at the Muslim Cultural Centre.

Ms Jaśmina Samsel is an Arabist and graduate of the Faculty of Oriental Studies at University of Warsaw and postgraduate studies in contemporary international migrations. She works as a multicultural assistant in primary schools, facilitating integration of the foreign Muslim pupils into the polish education system. She is also a translator and lecturer and from 2013 has been engaged in comprehensive assistance to migrants as well as intercultural and interreligious dialogue. She has an extensive experience in relations with youth.

Ms Katarzyna Górak-Sosnowska is a professor at the Warsaw School of Economics. She has a vast expertise in the area of socio-economic problems of the Middle East and North Africa and issues of Islam and Muslims in Poland and abroad. She published, among others, didactic materials for secondary school teachers on Islam, and works pertaining to deconstructing islamophobia in Poland, as well as to widening of the European discourse on Islam.

Mr Karol Wilczyński is a journalist and author (together with Anna Wilczyńska) of the blog Islamista. He runs free teaching projects in polish schools (mainly in Cracow) to educate pupils about culture of Islam, but also to discuss about migrants and media reporting on Islam and migrants. The blog “Islamista” (which means primarily a researcher and expert in Islam, according to the Polish dictionary) has been created to share knowledge and experience about Islam and Muslims. It is a place of discussions about Islam without prejudices and “unnecessary emotions”.

Ms Zargan Nosordinova is a Muslim woman, a mother and a refugee – and represents a community of Chechen women in Warsaw in LOI. She is a vocal representative of Chechen refugees, actively involved in work with the NGO community in Warsaw, also an experienced speaker and participant of awareness raising activities. She is also an author of a book, where she described her refugee experience.

As all other LOIs in the other countries of the Project, the experts will focus on the realization of a action plan to prevent Islamophobia for local authorities. During the first meeting of the Polish LOI all members agreed on drawing the synergies between its current work and already existing plans related to prevention of racism, xenophobia and Islamophobia and try to build upon them.

The developments of their work during the next meetings will be part of the updates on this blog in the next weeks.