details of the interview
Role of the Interviewed: teacher
Type of radicalization: ethnic discrimination
Historical period collocation: 2017/2018 school year
Date/Country of the Interview: 03/07/2018, Bulgaria
Interviewer: Sdruzhenie “Shans i zakrila” - Opportunity and Protection Association (OPA)
Have you witnessed or experienced personal situations of radicalization during your activity in sport organizations? What kind of radicalizations have you detected? (Gender, politics, religion, racism, crime, homophobia…)
So far I have not thought that the case I'm going to tell you is a radical event. Now that you have explained to me more about radicalization, I think that it is actually a serious case. I think the problem is on a religious basis.
Telling your story. What has happened? How has the story started?
I am a teacher in a school where there are children of Roma origin only. The students love football very much and prefer it in the lessons in physical education. They once asked whether they could play another game. I allowed them to play the game and only watched them. I was even glad that the initiative was theirs. I was surprised at what happened. They split into two groups. The boys in the first group were pretending to shoot against the others who were falling on the ground - "killed." Those who shot were shouting loudly "Allahu Akbar" (meaning Allah (God) is the greatest). At that moment I was startled and remembered something I had noticed before, but I did not pay attention to it. I had seen the same guys wrap checked scarves like turbans on their heads. At that time I thought it was fashion. I stopped the game and called the children to sit around me. I asked them from where they knew this game and who told it to them. They said they play this game because they are Muslims, Islam is the only right religion, and Christians are unbelievers. They also added that it's an honour for everybody to defend his faith. We have talked for a long time. I tried to explain to them that the world is diverse and there are people of different races, religions and ethnicities. They are all important and equal. I told them that I am a Christian and asked them if this makes me worse than them. They looked at me in astonishment - until now they had not thought what my religion was, and were confused that we got along well although I am a Christian.
How did you realize what was going on? What kind of signals could you detect? How do you explain radicalization, referring to your experience?
I have been working in the school for many years, and I notice that this community is becoming more and more closed and living in isolation. In the recent years, the mothers of some children have started to come to school veiled and this had not happened before. Some of the students say that in the neighborhood there are places where people gather and talk about Islam.
Have you tried to cope with this situation? What was possible to do? What have you done? Have you involved other people/organizations? Who was involved?/em>
The case disturbed me and I shared it with my colleagues. It became clear that they had noticed similar signs. We decided that it is good to let our students communicate with peers from other schools and ethnicities with the aim of getting to know each other and understand that religion is not a reason for separation. We involved our students in school-run football tournaments organized in the city.
Did you feel you had the skills to manage this kind of situations? Which was the most difficult part of it? Have you had any form of support?
I definitely have not got enough skills to deal with such situations. So far I have not been trained on this topic and I have reacted by intuition. I'm not sure if this is the right way, and I think the result is temporary, limited to the specific case. All colleagues have been involved in the case, but they also do not feel confident about this.
End of the story. How did the story end up? What have you learned from this personal experience? What would you say to people who are living similar situations?
Over the time, the interest in this game has subsided, but I do not think we have fully coped with the problem. It is not enough just to work on this topic at school as children are in school for only some time and in the environment they live they are subject to various influences.