Today, we will see the UK’s first female Prime Minister in the 26 years since Margaret Thatcher. Perhaps this is why she was referred to, in one tongue-in-cheek article circulating online, as Thatcher’s final Horcrux. The damage May has done to the liberal freedoms of Muslims in the UK, after all, could only beg a Voldemort-like comparison.
Few politicians have excelled at damaging entire communities as Theresa May has. While paying lip service to the “promotion of British values” as a strategy to tackle extremism, May failed to recognise the irony of the draconian Counter Terrorism and Security Bill 2015. The policies that arose from this bill taped shut the mouths of Muslim university students to voice their opinions in lectures and seminars for fear of being deemed extremist, making a mockery of that “British value” of freedom of speech. It became clear soon after that the Bill gives people permission to be Islamophobic, framing as it does terrorism as a “Muslim problem”.
Although it now humorously forgoes common sense to the extent that nursery age kids are suspected to have radical views (one four-year-old boy was almost referred to a counter-extremism programme, according to his mother, because he drew a cucumber that teachers mistook for a “cooker bomb”) the effects of CTS Bill remain chilling.
It is the mandatory presence of Prevent officers in public spaces, acting effectively as spies, which alienates Muslims, rather than anything to do with their religion.
May claims that she has “strengthened the response” to terrorism since becoming Home Secretary, resulting in a safer country for everyone, but she really just made fewer British Muslims identify as culturally British.
One major success of her candidacy as leader of the Conservative Party was the deportation of Abu Qatada, a move almost blocked by the Human Rights Convention. In that case, May was scornful of the meddling HRC. Strange, then, that she used the Human Rights Convention as a means to halt the extradition of Gary McKinnon to the US - while allowing that of Talha Ahsan. Both had Asperger’s Syndrome. Both were charged of roughly the same crime. The difference was that Talha Ahsan is a Muslim. In doing this, she gave us a clear message: there is one rule for white people in Theresa May’s Britain, and another for the Muslims that reside there.
As she aims to prove herself the Iron Lady of modern day Britain, I fear that Theresa May’s track record as Home Secretary will result in the extended isolation and denigration of the British Muslim community. Awarded the Islamophobe of the Year award by the Islamic Human Rights Commission in 2015, her rise to prime ministerial power is hardly cause for celebration if you’re a British Muslim like me.
It’s starkly evident that May’s actions as Home Secretary created an atmosphere where hatred and violence toward Muslims became a social norm. When it was announced that she was to become Prime Minister by default, I pictured 3 million British Muslims on an iceberg being violently prodded by May to move further away from their faith. We used to think “British Muslim” wasn’t a contradiction in terms. Now we fear the two words can never seem compatible in the eyes of the white British public or, increasingly, in the eyes of the Muslim community.
So if she really means it when she says she wants to pave the way for a “better Britain”, May will have to work hard to back-peddle on the mistrust and fear she created in her role as Home Secretary. In an age where a quarter of young people in Britain say they don’t trust Muslims, tackling this must become a priority, before we condemn future generations to prejudice, suspicion, division and a permanently fractured country.
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