Scholars discuss rise in prejudiced rhetoric

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Experts called for change in the minds of Europeans and Americans as they compared and contrasted racial and religious intolerance on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean during a panel discussion at UT this weekend. The European Studies department hosted a two-day conference to discuss the heavy prejudice of the American and European societies against immigrants and Muslims. Associate government professor Terri Givens organized and moderated the discussions and said she chose 12 professors, politicians, activists and journalists from the U.S. and Europe to speak at the panel. The panelists called for activism against intolerance of race, religion or country of origin. “Of course, we don’t have all the answers, but I hope we continue working toward them and pushing our own dreams, even if they are Utopian,” Givens said. Givens said it is necessary for the scholars to continue the discourse about the issue through their writings to come closer to an end for prejudice. “Women didn’t get the right to vote without campaigning and struggle. We are not going to solve this problem without getting engaged,” said keynote speaker Glyn Ford, a former member of European Parliament. “I think there is a responsibility among politicians to push the envelope as far as you can.” Participants of the panel used the term “Islamaphobia” to describe the growing fear of Muslims after Sept. 11. “Islamaphobia” has replaced the anti-Semitism of the early ’80s, Ford said. “‘Islamaphobia:’ it’s no longer a Jewish conspiracy but a threat to Western Civilization,” he said. It exists in Spain as the country encourages immigration of Catholic Spanish speakers but deters immigration of Muslims into the country, he said. Panelists also discussed historical and political aspects of immigration, including maltreatment of Chinese and Irish immigrants to the United States. The far right in Europe hold more extreme anti-immigrant views than those of conservatives in the U.S. because the latter is a country of immigrants, Givens said. Panelist and Guardian Times columnist Gary Younge said people should be free to live wherever they want around the world, but immigrants tend to face prejudice. “Do you want to mow your own lawn? Do you want to look after your own kids?” Younge asked. “Because if you don’t, then these people need to stay. I think that [what] they want to do is suppress [immigrants]. They don’t actually want them gone, but they just don’t like the idea that they may one day be equal.” Younge criticized conservatives for having racist political views on immigration but also criticized liberals for not adequately fighting against racism. “The fact of racism is probably going to be a constant fact of human life,” Younge said. “I would like to think that resistance to racism on the political level would also be a constant fact of human life, but when the left doesn’t do that, you wonder who will.”