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Wed, 01/11/2017 - 15:15

This was a good year for British Muslims but more must stand up and say no to hate

This year I stood in awe as Sadiq Khan triumphed over Zac Goldsmith in the contest for Mayor of London and as Mo Farah beat the field to become our most successful Olympic track and field athlete of all time. A point of pride for many, these should in theory cement 2016 as the year of success for many British Muslims, creating a profound sense of hope for the future. It is that hope that I try and cling to, as I come to terms with the fact that for me, this year’s defining feature was in fact the rise of bigotry in our society with misrepresentations and downright lies to smear Muslims the tool of choice.

Goldsmith sets the tone

 Zac Goldsmith’s “disgusting” Mayoral campaign started the year trying to smear Sadiq Khan by linking him with extremists and terrorism – a tactic seemingly supported by current Prime Minister Theresa May who said that voting for Khan was to put London “at risk”, and the former Prime Minister David Cameron who alongside Defence Secretary Michael Fallon falsely accused Imam Suliman Gani of being an IS-supporter. Yet the “simmering underbelly of Islamophobia in the Conservative Party” as described by Baroness Sayeeda Warsi was only the start. Parts of the Brexit campaign took things to another level, exceeding the legitimate position on the EU by instead indulging in racism of the most pernicious kind. Nigel Farage’s infamous “Breaking point” poster, described by JK Rowling as “an almost exact duplicate” of Nazi propaganda, was only one of a catalogue of xenophobic stunts that littered the campaign. However, unlike the Goldsmith debacle, Brexit won, unleashing a huge rise in post-referendum racism.

The media fans the flames

The role of the mainstream media in the spread of this hate is undeniable according to research in 2016 by the University of Cambridge. Little wonder given headlines such as “1 in 5 Brit Muslims’ sympathy for jihadis” (The Sun), “UK mosques fundraising for terror” (Daily Star Sunday), “Isolated British Muslims are so cut off from the rest of society that they see the UK as 75 per cent Islamic, shock report reveals” (Mail on Sunday) and “Islamic honour killing” (Sun and Mail Online) – all of which were admitted to be inaccurate following complaints by me this year. The Sun even published without remorse a “Cut out and keep guide: Here’s what terrorists look like”! Such lies are often taken as gospel and repeated by far-right organisations as they spread their hate. The tragic murder of Jo Cox by a far-right terrorist was the most powerful moment exemplifying this year’s increase in hate crime. Just this month in London, a knife-wielding man shouted “I want to kill a Muslim” before stabbing a Muslim in the head, twice in the chest and three times in the back; a Muslim woman wearing a headscarf was shoved to the ground and dragged along the pavement in a “sickening” attack: she was left unassisted for almost 20 minutes before being able to dial 999; and in Scotland, a mosque in Cumbernauld was sprayed with racist graffiti.

The right measures to take

 Some might argue that the attempted firebombing of mosques, Muslims being thrown off planes and casual Islamophobia should not be acknowledged, for fear of giving rise to a victim-mentality. Others say such crimes should be ignored given the even worse rise of the far right in many parts of Europe. But that cannot be our frame of reference. Our values as a nation include that of respect for others, despite the evidence from this year. From helping flood victims, supporting the homeless through donating food and spreading Christmas cheer, or by running food banks and grant-making bodies, we see just small insight into the wide range of examples showing how many Muslims embody these values. The rise of generation M – the young Muslim millennials changing the world – shows there is much to celebrate.

Louder voices are needed

And while there has been a dearth of political leadership on this issue, there are many who are willing to stand up to hate. At the end of this year the husband of murdered MP Jo Cox, Brendan Cox, led the way standing up to Nigel Farage’s bigotry. The Prince of Wales also warned of the “rise of many populist groups across the world that are increasingly aggressive to those who adhere to a minority faith”. Despite the victory of Trump and the rise of the far-right in Europe, I can only hope that this coming year will be when political leaders finally acknowledge and confront not only the real threat of international terrorism but all forms of hate and intolerance once and for all. But even if they fail to do so, as I fear, I hope next year will be the year of the civil society coalition where groups from all parts of our society stand up and say “no to hate”.

 

Source:

https://inews.co.uk/opinion/comment/good-year-british-muslims-must-stand-say-no-hate/