THE BLOG

Britain Must Not Give in to Islamophobia

14/12/2015 13:13 GMT | Updated 12/12/2016 10:12 GMT

This weekend, the world marks one month since the horrific attacks in Paris. I am repulsed every time terrorists commit such massacres and cause such terrible human suffering. The fact that the perpetrators of the Paris and other attacks espouse rhetoric linking their senseless murders to Islam disgusts me even further.

I totally understand that there is anger and fear amongst some people in Britain regarding what the terrorists did in Paris and what carnage they could potentially cause on our soil. Following the Paris attacks, some people are thinking twice before visiting crowded places because of this fear. But levelling hatred towards ordinary Muslims - who oppose the hateful views of ISIS - is not the answer.

Most people in Britain have no time for this hatred - just as most British Muslims have no time for ISIS and their abhorrent views. The response to last weekend's appalling attack on commuters at Leytonstone tube station - with one man's impassioned cry "You ain't no Muslim Bruv," reverberating on Twitter and even being quoted by the Prime Minister - is testament to the revulsion we as Muslims feel when people target our neighbours in the name of our faith.

Hatred towards British Muslims remains, thankfully, confined to the nasty margins of our society. But it still exists and, in the wake of the Paris attacks, has become more prevalent. The recent rise in anti-Muslim attacks and the severity of their nature shows that extremist groups in the UK want to send a strong message of hatred to British Muslims. 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.

The US Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump has given fuel to such bigotry by calling a ban on Muslims entering the United States. Such hateful rhetoric is both shameless and dangerous and he is doing exactly what ISIS hoped for. What is extremely worrying is that despite worldwide withering rebuke of Donald Trump's shameful rhetoric, there are some people who tend to agree with him. Division, hatred and committing violence towards each other is central to terrorists' ideology. Tolerance is one of the most fundamental of British values: we should not be provoked by extremists into undermining who we are and what we stand for as a nation.

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. Tell-Mama, an organisation which records incidents of verbal and physical attacks on Muslims and mosques in the UK, reports a 300% rise in reports of attacks against Muslims since the devastating events of Paris. A similar trend emerged in the aftermath of the murder of Fusilier Lee Rigby in Woolwich.

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'. 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 remain relatively rare. The current rise in Islamophobic abuse, however, is alarming. We should not tolerate any kind of bigotry against a particular community in Britain. Anti-Muslim prejudice is a matter for everyone who cares about this country and our tolerant and fair society. We must send out a strong message that anti-Muslim hatred is a form of prejudice that has no place here.

Despite the rise in anti-Muslim hate intimidation and crime, Muslims need to stay calm, vigilant, and watchful. I urge anyone who experiences physical or verbal abuse to 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.