A phrase that is still underlined with red dots when you type it in on Word, Islamophobia is still very much in its beginner phase of becoming a well-known and understood phenomenon. Following reports of the Aubervilliers teacher fabricating his attack, The Gryphon explores the growing levels of Islamophobia across the UK and worldwide and looks at what you can do to help reduce and prevent this unsettling trend.
It is a term that has lately been getting more attention and focus, however there is still an immediate need to address the issue of Islamophobia more urgently and on a wider scale. Professor Tahir Abbas defines Islamophobia as ‘’the fear or dread of Islam or Muslim’’ in his book Muslim Britain. The negative characterisation of Muslims is on-going throughout world history, but has recently increased after terrorist attacks in the Western world such as 9/11 in New York City, 7/7 in London, and, most recently, the atrocities in Paris. These tragedies have led to Muslim communities and activities being put under suspicion and supervision and this has, for some, led to everyday attitudes towards Muslims being negatively changed.
Additionally, the Western world has used these attacks to justify invasions in the Middle East without further reasoning to its citizens than, to use Bush terminology, fighting “the axis of evil”. When Anders Behring Breivik, a far-right terrorist from Norway, killed 69 participants of the left-wing AUF summer camp, there were no world leaders that even considered invading Norway. Why is that? This may also lead us to question what the difference is between attacking the Middle East and attacking cities in the West is and how this differs when terrorism is performed by a non-governmental group or by a nation. Are we really fighting for our countries and democratic rights when we fly in over Syria and destroy villages and kill the people that inhabit them? Or are we actually creating terrorists, by trying to solve issues through the use of violence?
Even though many Muslims worldwide are currently suffering, Islamophobia is more apparent in our world than ever before. In a time when we should be sympathising, we are excluding. Currently, 44% of British people think that there are too many Muslims in Britain, even though Muslims in 2011 only made up 2.7 million of the 63-million-strong British population. A further 61% of Britons do not believe that Islam is compatible with British culture, a sentiment which affects many Muslim’s day-to-day lives. This can for instance be seen when looking at the job market, where Muslims are paid 13-21% less than their white Christian counterparts of equal qualification in the UK. This presents a clear lack of understanding of Islam and reflects institutionalised Islamophobia.
The demonization of Muslims is continuously growing day to day. This is happening while Muslims are fleeing countries and seeking help and refuge because they can no longer stay in their own countries. The exact terrorists that these Muslims are running from are the terrorists that many people unfairly associate them with in the countries they flee to.
On the 28th of November, The Gryphon attended the talk ‘’Islamophobia: causes and cures’’ in Leeds Grand Mosque, in order to gain a better understanding of where the negative discourse concerning Islam is rooted. The talk especially focused on how the media plays a large role in the condemnation of all Muslims and the Islamic faith for the acts of a small minority, identifying that for every one moderate Muslim mentioned, twenty-one examples of extremist actions are mentioned in the British press. The talk focused on how this kind of media distortion has manipulated many British citizens into thinking that Muslims are threatening society’s safety and values. In our modern time the media is constantly present and greatly affecting us, and therefore we must call out our newspapers, news channels, and radio shows in order to change the way that Muslims and Islam are described and presented. This is a step towards minimalising Islamophobia, but also a step towards creating awareness amongst the population when it comes to discrimination. The non-profit organisation MEND has created a guide with three easy steps for you to call out our media:
But renewed, more positive responses on social media are starting to show a sense of change and awareness, in contrast to media representation. On Twitter, following the successful #NotInMyName campaign, the hashtag #YouAintNoMuslimbBruv garnered thousands of hits in the aftermath of the Leytonstone tube attack, trending on twitter for hours. Though this is only a small step in the movement towards separating the atrocious acts of few from the peaceful faith of millions, such online responses show that social media could form a large part of a conscious unity against Islamophobia.
We need to consciously prevent Islamophobia from spreading any further. We need to educate people and we need to liberate ourselves from the notion that society and politics need a scapegoat in order to succeed. We are currently facing a massive refugee crisis, and the only thing making it more unbearable than it already is, would be for us to victimise the refugees and associate them with the very terrors they are fleeing from. This subjugation comes from a place of fear, which is a feeling that we must try to brush off in Europe and the rest of the world and be brave for the people who are in need of our help instead. We must stand together and invite them in, not only for their sake, but also for the sake of our collective future.
You can find out more about MEND or get involved at: http://mend.org.uk/
[Images: theatlantic.com, theodysseyonline.com, Twitter, MEND]