Image via WikipediaTop international footballers have added their voices to the campaign against Islamophobia organised in the United Kingdom by Show Racism The Red Card.
Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand and midfielder Ryan Giggs appear alongside France international Thierry Henry, Arsenal's Kolo Toure and Chelsea 's Didier Drogba in a new video which challenges stereotypes about Muslims.
''Before you judge, you need to know people,'' said the French international forward Henry. ''People are confusing what they see on tv and what they should learn for themselves.
''No disrespect to journalists or tv but they have a big power and sometimes they use it in the wrong way.''
An education pack accompanies the video, offering lesson plans and activities for work with children and adults.
The introduction to the education pack states: ''The activities have been designed to help young people to challenge stereotypes and prejudice towards Muslims and gain greater historical and political awareness of the climate which has enabled Islamophobia to flourish in recent times.''
Show The Red Card, a campaign group based in Whitley Bay , uses football celebrities to focus attention on discrimination. It believes its current campaign is timely given the surge in Islamophobia since the terrorist attacks on the United States and the bombings in Madrid and London .
In the United Kingdom , the Dispatches programme broadcast on Channel 4 revealed that anti-Muslim attacks are now so commonplace that some violent assaults are not even reported to the police.
Writing in the Independent newspaper in July 2008, programme-maker Peter Oborne stated: ''The systematic demonisation of Muslims has become an important part of the central narrative of the British political and media class; it is so entrenched, so much part of normal discussion, that almost nobody notices. Protests go unheard and unnoticed.''
Elsewhere in Europe, evidence is plentiful that suspicion of Islam and fear of Muslims have taken hold.
In the Netherlands, the popularity of MP Geert Wilders, known for his ‘anti-Islam' film ‘Fitna' is on the rise.
In his report on the Netherlands published in March 2009, the Commissioner for Human Rights Thomas Hammarberg, encouraged Dutch authorities to ''take a firm stand against the anti-islamic undercurrent in society and to promote the national action plan against racism and xenophobia and monitor its implementation in close cooperation with civil society.''
The United Kingdom 's British National Party has thrived politically as popular fears about Islamic extremism have deepened. Complaints about the "Islamification of Norway” have boosted the appeal of the country's hardline, right wing politicians. In Switzerland , voters accepted a proposal to ban minarets.
A 67-page report published in February 2009 by Human Rights Watch argues that eight out of the 16 German states which ban teachers and other civil servants from wearing religious symbols and clothing discriminate against Muslim women.
The Pew survey of global attitudes reported in 2008 that more than half of Spaniards and 50% of Germans said that they did not like Muslims. The figures for those holding unfavourable opinions of Muslims in Poland and France were 46% and 38% respectively.
Such is the scale of Islamophobia that since 2005, the Council of Europe has treated inter-cultural and inter-religious dialogue as priority themes.
In March 2008, the Organisation's leaders denounced Wilders' film Fitna as ''political propaganda'' playing ''into the hands of extremists.''
Through books, conferences and the campaign 'Speak Out Against Discrimination,' the Council of Europe wants to encourage Europe 's 800 million citizens towards greater understanding and respect.
''Fact-based education on the diversity of religious and secular beliefs is indispensable if we want to be able to live together as equals in dignity,'' said Deputy Secretary General Maud de Boer Buquicchio. ''It is indeed a key element of education for democratic citizenship, human rights and intercultural dialogue.''
File: Intercultural and Interreligious Dialogue
Website: Show Racism The Red Card