The consequence of this portrayal was written on the wall in bold and brightly coloured letters: Muslims will become victims of terrible crimes motivated by racism and Islamophobia if this media onslaught continues. The media did not pay heed to those warnings, and that has happened, exactly as it was predicted.
The examples are numerous but let me recall just the most recent ones. Last week a taxi driver was nearly beaten to death in the Midlands, and this week a young father in the East End of London was repeatedly hit, stamped on and kicked in the head. Both of these victims feared for their lives. We have many examples of Muslim girls being spat at, verbally abused and physically pushed onto train tracks; Muslim men have been thrown off buses, trains and even planes. I myself faced such discrimination when my US visa was revoked and I was prevented from boarding a plane at the last hour before it took off. In all of the above cases the common factor has been that we are Muslims; that seemingly being a Muslim is a crime, and we are victims of hatred.
It is a shame that just when we thought the ugly head of racism and prejudice was served a deathblow it has resurfaced. It has an even uglier and more virulent manifestation, thanks to the shameless and continuous portrayal that Muslims and Islam are equated with terrorism and extremism around the world. The result is simple. You don't need to be a rocket scientist to know the deep impact of irresponsible journalism and conflated fear mongering by the leaders of our society. We have seen how the Nazi media machinery vilified Jewish people in Europe and subsequently perpetrated one of the most heinous genocides of the 20th century: the holocaust.
I now fear for the day when the Muslims of Europe would be put to death at the hands of their European friends, neighbours and fellow countrymen! We don't have to go very far to realise that this did happen in Bosnia at the hands of the Serbs in the early 90s. It is a déjà vu moment for me. When I was younger, my father always encouraged me to buy some land and build a second home in Bangladesh, his ancestral country, in case we were driven out of Europe en masse. I argued against him vociferously, opposing his hypothesis, but now I am very afraid of the future for Muslims in Europe, and I am thinking: should I seek a second home somewhere else too!
It is a sad moment of realisation. I never thought I would arrive at this terrible junction. Even my wife, who is a native white European, has been expressing her deep fear and anxiety of living in Europe lately. For many Muslims it has become an existential question. When the media focuses on spreading fears the natural consequence is to be very afraid. Non-Muslims have been made to become afraid of, and even to hate, Islam and Muslims, and Muslims are terrified of what fate awaits them in Europe!
I place the burden of responsibility on the shoulders of Nazi-like right-wing media machinery of our time and the fear-mongering extreme politicians of all parties. Their menacing words reverberate in the hearts and minds of many ordinary people; it inspires hatred deep inside them; it raises and imbeds their irrational hatred of Islam and Muslims. You only need a bunch young people intoxicated by alcohol and inspired by fear to set upon their unsuspecting neighbours and unleash rivers of blood on the streets across Europe.
Muslims should send congratulations to the right-wing media and politicians for the incessant demonisation by association of Islam and Muslim people to the evils of terrorism and extremism around the world.
In the 70's and 80's from Brick Lane to Brixton we fought racists in pitched battles, and if we need to fight the same thugs again we shall rise to that challenge. However, I never wish to see any more fights or race riots in our streets. What I do wish to see is more responsible journalism and conscientious politicians calling people to love their neighbour, rather than adding fuel to the fire of fear. I am not guilty by association of any crime. The 1.8 billion Muslims of the world are not guilty of the crimes of terrorism. Islam certainly has never condoned terrorist ideology or barbaric acts. The warped and barbaric acts of Da'esh and other extreme groups who claim to represent Islam have nothing whatsoever to do with the religion. Much like the Ku Klux Klan has nothing to do with Christianity.
I would like to rouse the conscience of the media and the politicians and request them to stop calling the evil acts of terror "Islamic" or "Islamist". There is no Islam in them. There is no God in such vile acts. No genuine Muslim would ever support terrorism. If they keep calling the terrorists "Islamic" or "Islamist" then ordinary people would think all Muslims are terrorists and Islam inspires terrorism. Such a lie would cause overwhelming damage to our collective future. If we want to avert blood soaked streets and pavements in Europe we must create more alliances of solidarity, respect and tolerance with our Muslim neighbours and citizens. The way forward is to create and spread peace, not hatred.