Event Reports

Establishment of an Iraqi National Center Against Hate Speech

by Nils Wörmer, Maha Haddad

KAS and Masarat hold interreligious and interethnic founding workshop

On March 15 and 16, the KAS Syria/Iraq office and Masarat for Cultural and Media Development (MCMD) held a two-day workshop in Beirut to establish and launch an Iraqi National Center Against Hate Speech. It brought together dedicated Iraqi journalists, religious clerics of different faiths and sects, civil society activists, bloggers, academics and social media activists, who signed a joint declaration to launch the Center for Countering Hate Speech in Iraq on March 16 in Beirut.

In the last few years, social tensions in Iraq have been exacerbated by the hateful rhetoric used by the Islamic State (IS) during its occupation of parts of the country. The social fabric is in danger of being tainted by the hate vocabulary and terminology that has begun to make its way into popular culture in dialogues and debates on political, security and social issues. As the country turns a new page after IS military defeat, new foundations need to be built. Despite the fact that, Iraq has a history that tells stories of various groups living side by side, the last years have given space to deepened social divisions.

After two years of monitoring and analyzing hate speech, a study of the trends has revealed that Iraqi citizens are exposed to dozens of hate messages issued by political, religious and media leaders on a daily basis, which has stimulated violence among them. Therefore, the establishment of a specialized center to address hate speech in media and politics has become an urgent national necessity. To fill this gap, KAS and MCMD supported the establishment of the Iraqi National Center Against Hate Speech in Beirut.

The workshop brought together participants from different sectarian , religious and ethnic backgrounds, representing prominent institutions such as Dar Al-Ilm for Al-Khoei Institute in Najaf, the UNESCO Chair for Interreligious Dialogue at the University of Kufa, the Faculty of Political Science at Mustansiriya University, the College of Islamic Sciences at Baghdad University, the Patriarchate of the Chaldean Church in Iraq and The World, the Anglican Church in Iraq, the Endowments of Mandaeans in Iraq, the Front of the Moderate Scholars of Sunnis in Iraq, the Yezidis, prominent activists, Basra University, and the Iraqi Interfaith Dialogue Council. Moreover, on Friday March 16th session, all the participants took part in a collective prayer that includes all religious, sect and ethnic representatives, instead of the traditional Muslim Friday’s prayer. Each participant either gave a two minutes speech or prayer expressing their hopes and feelings for Iraq.

The Iraqi National Center Against Hate Speech gathers clerical and civil society leaders of different ethnicities, religions and sects who made it their mission to rebuild confidence among Iraqis in the Post-IS period by monitoring and countering hatred in media and political speeches, in order to enhance the cohesion of society and the coexistence of its different sects. The center will oversee training workshops for journalists and clerics to teach peaceful and academic ways to monitor, analyze, dismantle and address political, religious and media hate speeches. With the support of KAS, more than 800 journalists and clerics are scheduled to be trained all over Iraq during 2018.

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Teilnehmer am Workshop zur Gründung eines nationalen Zentrums zur Bekämpfung von Hassrede
Konfessionsübergreifendes Gebet für die Zukunft des Irak