There are many values we share and uphold as British citizens. We respect each other and we protect each other and we must not give in to Islamophobia… writes Qari Asim, Imam, Makkah Mosque, Leeds
The fact that the perpetrators of the Paris and other attacks espouse rhetoric linking their senseless murders to Islam is absolutely horrible.
The anger and fear amongst some people in Britain regarding what the terrorists did in Paris and what carnage they could potentially cause in Britain is absolutely understandable. Post the Paris attacks, some people are thinking twice before visiting crowded places because of this fear.
The recent rise in anti-Muslim attacks and the severity of the nature of such incidents indicates that extremist groups in the UK want to send a strong message of hatred to British Muslims. There has been a 300% rise in reports of attacks against Muslims since the devastating events of Paris according to Tell-Mama, an organisation which records incidents of verbal and physical attacks on Muslims and mosques in the UK. A similar trend emerged in the aftermath of the murder of Lee Rigby in Woolwich
But levelling hatred towards Muslims – who are anti-ISIS – is not the answer. Considering Muslims to be the enemy within or a fifth column, allowing the term “Muslim” to become synonymous with “extremist” and “potential terrorist”, is playing to the tune of ISIS. Division, hatred and committing violence towards each other is central to their ideology. Tolerance is one of the most fundamental of British values. We must not compromise our British values, on the provocation of those who want to destroy civilization.
For decades, anti-Muslim sentiments, also known as Islamophobia, have been experienced by Muslims. In a study published in early November, the Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC) noted that six out of 10 Muslims in Britain surveyed said they had seen Islamophobia directed at someone else, up from four in 10 when the survey was first conducted in 2010.
Since the Paris attacks on 13 November, there has been a considerable increase in bigotry and hostility on the streets in terms of verbal abuse and physical attacks against Muslims. The majority of these attacks have been levelled at women, who are wearing headscarves, a visual sign of their religious identity. Some Muslim women have experienced more than just a ‘low-level’ of bigotry. Attacks have included threatening behaviour, intimidation or violence. British Muslim women have been pushed whilst walking on the streets, called “Isis bitches”, “Muslim monkey”, “ninja”. There have been incidents of women being asked to leave a train, being spat on at bus stops, headscarves being snatched in the street, and being asked to leave Britain. All of these are enough to make anyone feel scared and vulnerable in their own home, let alone on the street.
A pregnant Muslim woman was racially abused by a drunk man who branded her a “terrorist” in a 15 minute tirade on a London bus while passengers looked on without intervening. In Fife, a man and a woman were violently assaulted by young people outside their takeaway; the perpetrators were berating them over the Paris atrocities. In many instances, the public do not seem to be intervening to help the victim either because they did not find the behaviour of the perpetrators ‘unacceptable’, which is extremely troubling, or because the assailants are so aggressive and hostile that people fear harm from them towards themselves. If this is the case, one can only imagine how threatened and fearful of constant attacks Muslim women must feel for themselves, their children and their families. Some of the victims have told me that even when they are abused, they do not respond, because they feel that it would simply reinforce the narrative of being “an aggressive Muslim”.
Attacks are not restricted to Muslims but even members of other communities are attacked who may look like ‘Muslims’. Muslims’ places of worships are also being attacked. Last week, a mosque in north London was targeted in a suspected arson attack and police are treating the incident as an Islamophobic hate crime.
As an independent member of the government’s Anti-Muslim Hatred Working Group, I am deeply concerned about the rise in anti-Muslim sentiments year on year. The current spike in anti-Muslim sentiments shown online, on public transport, and on our streets, is sobering and affecting the future of community cohesion in Britain. In multi-belief and multi-cultural Britain, no one should feel intimidated or threatened because of their faith or lifestyle.
As a whole, Britain is a very tolerant society and thankfully these kinds of attacks are relatively rare. But the current rise in such abuse is alarming. Any kind of bigotry against a particular community must not be tolerated in Britain. Anti-Muslim prejudice is a matter for everyone who cares about Britain being a tolerant and fair society, and we must send out a strong message that anti-Muslim hatred is a form of prejudice.
Despite the rise in anti-Muslim hate intimidation and crime, Muslims need to stay calm, vigilant, and watchful. Those who experiences physical or verbal abuse must report such incidents to the police. British Muslims commended the Prime Minister’s announcement in October that the government would bring the recording process for religious hate crimes against Muslims in line with those against the Jewish community, which have been recorded separately for some time.
It does not need to be said that the potential consequences of the demonisation of an entire community, hostility, racism and social division are catastrophic. As Brits, we all need to display a dynamic spirit of open mindedness, co-operation and tolerance. We must join hands and heads to eliminate prejudice, bigotry and intolerance from our society – whether it be anti-semitism, anti-Muslim hatred or hatred towards other minority communities. There should be no place in Britain for any kind of prejudice and hatred. To allow otherwise is to hand victory to the terrorists.