We must fight all forms of hate to defeat Islamophobia

Harris Bokhari

Article originally published on 30th September 2019 in the Evening Standard

Having “f***ing terrorists, we voted Leave so leave our country” shouted at my six-year-old nephew after Eid prayers. Members of my family being abused for wearing the headscarf. A neighbour opposite my house putting a Tommy Robinson poster in their front window on the anniversary of the terror attack near Finsbury Park mosque. These are just a few examples of the abuse my family has faced over the past four years. How much of this is just pure racism, and how much is directed at my family and me because we visibly “look Muslim” is debatable.  

When Sajid Javid talked about the racism his family faced, describing his mother “time and time again scrubbing the P-word off from the front of our shop”, can we see similar examples of the Islamophobia he faced? Was his exclusion from the Trump state banquet because of his Muslim background? What is clear is the Islamophobic abuse and death threats our Muslim politicians face every hour online. The comments posted under tweets by Sadiq Khan show the extent of the problems today.

Analysis from the Office for National Statistics shows the ethnic pay gap is still at worrying levels. Workers from ethnic minority communities, particularly from Muslim communities, are paid less on average than their British colleagues from other faiths and none.  Previous social mobility reports have shown one in five Muslim adults is in full-time work compared with 35 per cent of the overall population. Muslim women wearing headscarves can face particular discrimination in the workplace, and a BBC test showed job seekers were three times more likely to be offered an interview if they did not have a Muslim-sounding name.

The Home Office reports that religious hate crimes rose by 40 per cent — with 52 per cent of such offences aimed at Muslims. When we look at the murder of Mohammed Saleem by a Neo-Nazi in Birmingham, and Finsbury Park being the only terrorist attack in recent history on a place of worship in the UK that resulted in a death, it begs the question why we as a society are not doing more to address this.  

Finsbury Park attack: The scene at Seven Sisters Road near the attack near the mosque (Jeremy Selwyn)

However, we can only tackle one form of hate by tacking all forms of hate. That means that within our own faith and wider communities we have a responsibility to call out hate wherever we see it — and that includes Muslims who shout hate at Pride marchers, promote anti-Semitic myths online or peddle hatred against religious minority sects such as the Ahmadiyya community. We all have a responsibility to fight back against hate and prejudice, whether conscious or unconscious. 

So, while the establishment debates the definition of Islamophobia, the question British Muslims facing discrimination every day are asking is: what more needs to happen to British Muslim communities before this issue is taken seriously and addressed once and for all?