How Many Lives Must Be Lost Before We Stop Sweeping Islamophobia Under The Carpet?

We live in a world of intolerant politicians who irresponsibly spur anti-Muslim hate to the extent attacks like Christchurch were only a matter of time – and that is unacceptable

The devastating news of the terrorist attack in Christchurch, New Zealand which left 50 Muslims dead left me extremely upset and distraught for my fellow brothers and sisters who lost their lives. As a British Muslim, who has experienced Islamophobia in the past, I shudder every time I hear of attacks on any community which has been fuelled by hate.

The attack happened on a Friday, a special day for Muslims, where we attend a congregational prayer in the mosque. Small children, parents, elderly had all convened to what they felt would be a safe sanctuary at their local mosque in Christchurch, only for their lives to be tragically snatched away from them.

I cannot comprehend what the families and friends of those who have died and injured must be going through, but my thoughts and prayers are with them. There has been an outpouring of vigils and support from the global community, and an increase in police security at mosques in many countries around the world.

Many Muslims, including myself, find it hard to explain to our children what has just happened here and why we live in a world, that sadly, is full of anti-Muslim hate, perpetuated by far-right rhetoric and misrepresentations of Muslims in the media. As my mind tries to make sense of all the events that have happened in the past up to now, I can’t help feeling that more could have been done to stop the spreading of Islamophobia and put the issue higher up on the agenda.

I have called countless times on all forms of hate to be tackled collectively and I stand by that call. We need to be tackling Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, racism, prejudice and all forms of hate together, but we also need to call out the roots that spread this hate and ensure that those who set out to divide us should be held accountable in the eyes of the law.

White supremacy and fascism cannot be defeated without coming together, without creating more interfaith understanding and ensuring that far-right extremism does not hide behind the guise of “freedom of speech”. However, this continues to be a difficult task when we have those in power such as the likes of Donald Trump, who thinks “Islam hates us”, and New Zealand senator Fraser Anning, who has no sympathy for the victims of the New Zealand terrorist attack whatsoever. The reality is that we live in world full of religiously intolerant politicians who irresponsibly spur anti-Muslim hate to such an extent that it was only a matter of time till an attack like this would happen on a mass scale – and that is unacceptable.

The perpetrator of the attack had also livestreamed the whole shooting on social media and this awful video had been shared widely. However, many people including myself, feel that this video should not be shared with respect to the victims and that by sharing the video we are only playing into the hands of the far-right. Some extremists have sought pleasure in watching it and for this reason it has been advised not to share it and give them any evil satisfaction.

As a Muslim woman, there is a fear that has rekindled inside me, a fear of not knowing how best to tackle Islamophobia if no one in power and authority is prepared to listen. However, I will not be deterred from attending the mosque, from wearing my hijab and from continuing writing in my capacity as a journalist.

We need to combat the fear of those who seek to divide us and come together as a community who is there for one another. Even if we live miles away from New Zealand, the community there should know that there are other individuals on the other side of the world who care, who choose religious tolerance and who are there to support all those affected by terrorism.

The bottom line is that Islamophobia is not something that should be swept under the carpet as it has been for so long. How many more lives will it take until someone takes a stand and listens to the voices of Muslims like myself who want to tackle Islamophobia, who want accountability and fairness in reporting of Muslims in the media and who want to be heard.


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