Since 9/11, Muslims around the world have fallen victim to a vicious cycle of resentment, alienation and degradation. Laws have changed and new policies have been implemented domestically and internationally yet, the remnants of the ‘war on terror’ continue to have a pernicious effect on the average Muslim.
We could say that 9/11 and 7/7 was the catalyst as the ‘rules of the game were changing’ under Tony Blair through a set of measures that demonised Muslims. Such stringent practices have, in my opinion, resulted in Muslims being treated as second-class citizens in contemporary society. Their civil liberties have been trampled on and political and religious freedoms subjected to scrutiny.
The examples are countless but to name just a few, Ofsted’s recent discriminatory recommendation to question young girls in Hijab because it “could be interpreted as sexualisation” has been met with controversy yet is ok to teach sex and relationships to children as young as five. As a nation, we may be progressing in the gender identity politics yet failing on religious identity. Furthermore, the Burka ban and Muslim women’s attire in general will always be a politicised, controversial topic. Then there’s the Prevent strategy which has stifled debate and free speech in universities - who wants to be kept safe from different political thoughts when they can challenge it? A Home Office report from 2015/16 found that 7,631 young people were referred to Prevent but significant limitations indicate why it is just not effective. Moreover, displaying one’s religious affiliation has proved to be toxic over the recent years where incidents of Islamophobia, particularly against Muslim women and mosques has been prolific.
It is apparent from this that Muslims have been used as pawns in domestic and foreign policies and there will always be someone, somewhere who commits a crime in the name of Islam and ordinary Muslims will pay a price. If this cycle is not broken then British Muslims in the public discourse will always feel under siege, particularly when a terror attack occurs.
Like former PM David Cameron, many politicians claim that ‘Muslims should do more to fight extremism’ despite the fact that a vast majority do not condone or uphold extremist views. It must be said that our leaders, the media and opponents of Islam often dismiss and undermine the work of Muslim organisations by ignoring their contribution and commitment to academia, education, sports, charity work, healthcare, politics and interfaith work as well as countering terrorism over the recent years.
The majority have worked in partnership with the authorities, engaged in inter-faith dialogue, taken the abuse by far-right groups and political figures, opened the doors of their mosques to the public and, even hiding their religious identity in fear of being labelled ‘extremist’.
After all these years, you would probably expect a change in attitude toward Muslims
Yet, there remains an expectation from the ‘other’ for a collective apology and public condemnation be it Paris, London Bridge, San Bernardino or the countless many. In case you’re wondering, they have condemned every attack to date which is listed on Muslims condemn.
It is clear that freedoms have been compromised through fear of the State apparatuses but has the collective condemnation, apology, mass vigil done any good to Muslims? The answer is simply, NO!
Muslims should not feel guilt tripped into displaying their humanity or commitment to British values whether that is through being compared to being ‘British as a cup of tea’ or wearing a ‘Poppy Hi-jab’.
2018 is still very new; even for president Trump so let it be a year where Muslims define themselves.
As the spoken word poet, Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan said in her viral spoken word poem, “If you need me to prove my humanity, I’m not the one who’s not human.” Muslims cannot be what you want them to be. Like her, I will not apologise for being Muslim anymore, and neither should you.