Belgium, (Brussels Morning Newspaper) Following the publication of numerous defamatory claims by Tomáš Zdechovský MEP on the 28th of July via Brussels Morning, as the President of the organisation that was attacked and as the leader of the representative voice for Muslim youth in Europe, I am exercising our right of reply.
I would like to preface this reply by saying that it is deeply unfortunate that elected officials are spending their time attacking voluntary organisations made up of young people and spreading dangerous conspiracy theories instead of serving the citizens they were elected to represent and support in these incredibly troubling times, in the midst of our recovery from a global pandemic.
The very notion that creating unfounded accusations is at the forefront of this policymaker’s thinking is truly concerning and shows the lack of connection that many in public office hold with the people to whom they are accountable to. I’m sure the founders of our beloved Union would be ashamed to see the institutions they formed to bring us all together being inhabited by those that seek the complete opposite.
The first assertion that MEP Tomáš makes is that our organisation exists in an ecosystem that is dictated by mythical superstructures that control the work and our priorities. The only people I and my incredible team of young volunteers are accountable to are the 33 youth organisations we represent across 21 countries. We are a fiercely democratic body and receive scrutiny every single year as a registered International Non-Governmental and Non-Profit Organisation headquartered in Brussels.
In the lead-up to the European day against Islamophobia on the 21st of September, we find it laughable that MEP Tomáš attacks a project devoted to monitoring and countering the very Islamophobia that his rhetoric in this article and others seek to spread. We are incredibly proud to have founded and worked with numerous fantastic organisations on the Islamophobia Monitoring and Action Network (IMAN) project. We believe his attacks on this project aim to delegitimise and defund vital projects like that of IMAN in this time of growing anti-Muslim hatred and deflect from his lack of efforts to fight all forms of discrimination. Colleagues across European institutions must ensure that his attempts are disregarded as any conspiracy theory should be.
The second attack MEP Tomáš makes in his article is our engagement in the European Youth Event (EYE) – a fantastic initiative by the European Parliament that seeks to bring thousands of young people together from across our region. What is truly striking is that MEP Tomáš must be aware of the horrific attacks that took place on racialised and Muslim youth at the most recent edition which was rightly condemned by over 149 of his colleagues in Parliament. A question must be raised then whether MEP Tomáš approves of such violent behaviour. If this is the case, MEP Tomáš is not fit to hold an office in the European Parliament.
Whilst this reply is focused on this article, this attack by MEP Tomáš must not be seen in isolation. It is part of a concerted effort to intimidate and silence the voices of those who are working to promote a progressive and multicultural society that provides a place and opportunity for all regardless of background. It is worth noting that such attacks are a common means of seeking to undermine the work of many Muslim organisations and individuals who are working to make a positive contribution to their European societies and counter Islamophobia.
Whilst parliamentary privilege may allow some to defame and attack civil society organisations, when an individual has the audacity to utilise the media to disseminate conspiratorial narratives, they must be held to account. Especially when they seek to undermine our goal which seeks to contribute to a diverse, cohesive and vibrant Europe, there must be collective concern around the actions of MEP Tomáš and his like.