Setting out to combat Islamophobia and encourage intercultural understanding, Women without Borders (WwB) conducted its ‘This is Us!’ research project between 2008 and 2009. The organisation conducted thirty in-depth interviews with Viennese students with Muslim backgrounds and produced a film entitled ‘This is Us!’. In providing this platform to express concerns and ambitions, WwB sought to contribute to challenge societal stigmas, counter Islamophobic media portrayals, and encourage peer-to-peer interaction among university students in Austria.
Islamophobia in democratic societies around the world has been advancing at an alarming rate over recent decades. A prevalent culture of fear, perpetuated by false media accounts and political rhetoric, has had an isolating effect on many Austrians with Muslim backgrounds. Arguably the youth has been impacted more than any other age group. Adolescence tends to be the most vulnerable period in a young person’s life. In this regard, support and societal acceptance are essential factors in avoiding the potential pitfalls of early adulthood, and indeed they are paramount to achieving one’s potential. Addressing Islamophobia in Austria presents an effective way of ensuring that all youth in the country are more likely to grow into democratically-minded and inclusive citizens of the twenty-first century. For to successfully promote diversity and encourage peer-to-peer interaction is to overcome pervasive societal malaises like prejudice that typically lead to discrimination, isolation, and self-isolation.
Seeking to counteract this mounting culture of fear, Women without Borders (WwB) rolled out its ‘This is Us!’ project between 2008 and 2009. With the support of Vienna’s Department for Culture, WwB conducted thirty in-depth film interviews with university and primary school students with Muslim backgrounds in and around Vienna. The platform provided an opportunity to share insights and attitudes, and to deepen Austrian society’s understanding of what young adults experienced in their daily lives. Through these conversations, the teenagers were able to paint a picture of the everyday challenges that an Austrian with a Muslim background typically has to endure due to common misconceptions and unfounded, biased projections onto their person.
After completing the interviews, WwB worked with an Austrian filmmaker to produce a feature entitled ‘This is Us!’. The film focused on how young female and male students with Muslim backgrounds overcome daily societal prejudice and navigate parental pressure by pursuing their hopes, dreams, and desires. The research and film project ultimately aimed to break down stigmas and misrepresentations by correcting narratives based on prejudice, and to encourage others to challenge misconstrued and anti-democratic notions of ‘the other’.