How a simple 'let's be friendly' experiment exposed the darker side of society prejudice

April 05 2019
How a simple 'let's be friendly' experiment exposed the darker side of society prejudice

Students tackle serious social problem

A 'High 5' - it's a near-universally accepted friendly greeting, yet for a group of Filton students, it has come to represent one of the most serious issues in society.
The experiment carried out by the Abbeywood Community School 6th Form students was a simple one - invite passers by in the city centre to 'high 5' a pair of students.
On one side of the street were two of the group - identifiably Muslims - while on the other side of the street two others stood who were not Muslim.
The results were stark - 187 people 'high 5-ed' the non Muslims. Just 120 high '5-ed' the Muslims.
The group, IslamNOphobia, has been working with skills organisation Envision to develop a project based on a social issue which will lead to extra credits after they leave school.
They have already won £100 from Envision after a Dragon's Den style pitch of their project.
The students, from mixed faith backgrounds, had heard anecdotal examples of Islamophobia directed at friends and wanted to investigate further.
One student, Shazera, said: "We all know of people who have experienced Islamophobia. They are called terrorists - people see Muslims and think they are all members of ISIS.
"I believe the causes are due to a mixture of factors - lack of knowledge, hatred and prejudice. People want someone to blame and when it comes to name calling, they don't see it as wrong."
The students said they were shocked after the experiment in Broadmead.
Burhan, who was one of the two Muslims, said parents were guiding their children away from him while for the two non-Muslims, there was no apparent hostility.
The students want to take facts - for example a large rise in faith-based hate crime since 9/11 - and help to educate the younger generation.
Lauren said: "We want to raise awareness among younger people. We think this will be more effective as the older generation may tend to stick to their views."
They also accept that the Muslim community itself can do more to create an atmosphere where harmony can thrive.
A concern which they have identified is a perception that the media creates stereotypes - branding Muslims involved in atrocities as terrorists but sometimes not when a non-Muslim is involved. The students have set up an Instagram account which has  attracted many positive comments.
Envision - envision.org.uk - brings together local businesses, schools, charities and volunteers to provide a practical learning experience which enables young people to develop the skills they need to succeed in work and life.
In return, young people invest their time in developing projects which give back to the community. They deliver the programme in 35 schools across three cities: Birmingham, Bristol and London.
A spokesman said: "Our approach combines the idealism of young people with the realism and experience of adult volunteers. It is delivered in schools by recent graduates who provide inspiring role models."
 They are supported by community and business volunteers who coach and mentor young people helping them to set achievable goals.How a simple 'let's be friendly' experiment exposed the darker side of society prejudice