The European Youth Event: An opportunity for change

Hande Taner

Belgium (Brussels Morning Newspaper) In an increasingly polarised Europe, it is crucial to ensure that every young person, regardless of their background or faith, feels included, represented, and empowered. The European Youth Event (EYE) has
emerged as a powerful platform that not only promotes intercultural dialogue and understanding but also provides a safe and inclusive space for marginalised youth, particularly those from Muslim backgrounds.

What is the European Youth Event (EYE)

The European Youth Event (EYE) is a bi-annual event that brings together young people from all over Europe to discuss and debate the most important issues facing the continent. The gathering serves as a platform for young people to exchange ideas, engage in meaningful discussions, and shape the future of Europe. For Muslim youth, the EYE is especially important. 

As the President of FEMYSO, representing 31 Muslim youth organisations in 21 countries across Europe, it is rare that the topic of discrimination does not arise when we discuss challenges facing Muslim youth.  In many European countries, Muslim youth face discrimination and marginalisation, they are often denied jobs, housing, or education opportunities because of their religion, and sadly the targets of hate crimes and violence. The EYE provides a safe space for Muslim youth to come together and build community. It is a place where they can be themselves and where they can feel supported. The EYE also provides a platform for Muslim youth to share their experiences and advocate for their rights.

The EYE plays a vital role in fostering interfaith dialogue and understanding. The event brings together young people from diverse religious backgrounds, providing a platform for open conversations and the promotion of tolerance and mutual respect. Through dialogue and collaboration, participants learn to challenge prejudices, debunk stereotypes, and build bridges between different faith communities.

Lessons from the past

However, at the last event in 2021 we saw this inclusive space violated by those who sought to divide and exclude Muslim and other marginalised youth from public life. A far-right delegation harassed members of both the FEMYSO delegation and that of #DiasporaVote to the extent that extra security was provided upon the departure of these vulnerable young people to ensure this could not continue. This deplorable act of aggression was rightly condemned by the leadership of European institutions, with a letter signed by 152 European parliamentarians calling for an inquiry into this incident submitted shortly after. 

This incident should serve as a call to action for organisers and participants alike, urging them to reaffirm their commitment to inclusivity and challenge such acts of hatred and intolerance at this edition due to start tomorrow.

Rather than allowing such incidents to deter us, we must collectively intensify our efforts in combating discrimination and creating an environment of acceptance. For this edition, the EYE has the potential to transform this unfortunate incident into a catalyst for change, prompting necessary dialogue and actions to foster an inclusive society where all young people feel safe and valued.

An agenda for change

This edition of the EYE comes at a crucial moment, just 12 months from now, I like many others will be at the ballot box voting in the most important European elections of our lifetimes. Amidst ongoing conflict, pending environmental catastrophe and the continued rise of the far right across our region. The hopes of young people dreaming of a better Europe must not be ignored. 

Our futures will be impacted by the decisions taken over the coming years, so our voices must be central in policymaking. The time has come for the youth policies that we advocate for every year to make it into the manifestos of political parties seeking to gain our votes. 

As FEMYSO, at this edition of the EYE we will be focusing on advocating on three key areas; education, culture, and discrimination. This is because our current education system is simply not fit for purpose, this is because intercultural and inter-religious education is not given its due importance, and because our European institutions are unwilling to tackle discrimination effectively due to a policy of exclusion of some of the most important voices. 

Together, we can create a more diverse, cohesive and vibrant Europe for all.

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Hande Taner, President of the Forum Of European Muslim Youth And Student Organisations (FEMYSO)