For years, Muslim communities and activists up and down the country have demanded that more be done to tackle Islamophobia, and for years our concerns were dismissed as nothing more than being overly sensitive to criticisms about their faith. Islamophobia was portrayed as a nonsense term: for some it was deemed logical and rational to fear Islam and Muslims, to portray Muslim communities as the “other”, the threat within. After last night’s terrorist attack outside a Finsbury Park mosque in which Muslims leaving Ramadan prayers were mowed down by a van, we saw what can happen when Islamophobia is allowed to go unchecked.
This attack didn't occur in a vacuum. For years there has been a rise in anti-Islam sentiment. After the London Bridge attack, the London Mayor’s office released a statement that said there had been a 40 per cent increase in racist incidents compared with the same day last year, and a five-fold increase in the number of Islamophobic incidents. Similarly, Muslim leaders reported a worrying rise in Islamophobic incidents following the Manchester attack.
The question must be asked about the Finsbury Park incident, as it would be asked if the attack had been perpetrated by a Muslim: who radicalised this person? Was this person emboldened by an increasingly anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim agenda in the right-wing tabloid media? Did he feel his actions were justified because of the popularity of Donald Trump and Brexit? I’ve already been told not to “politicise” this attack as if it weren’t inherently political.
Don’t tell me today that Islamophobia doesn’t exist, or that it’s been overplayed by Muslims “playing the victim”. If anything, Muslims are wary of reporting hate crimes against their communities, fearing that their concerns will not be taken seriously or that even if they are it will not result in a successful prosecution.
Women like my own mother are anxious of going outside alone, with news regularly coming in of hijabs being pulled off and women being spat at. Today we saw people exercising the very British right of religious freedom came under attack.
It’s about time the Government did more to tackle the dangers posed by those who whip up Islamophobic sentiment that lead to attacks like these. For too long we have allowed a double standard to occur in which this type of extremism is seen as the less dangerous counterpart to Islamic extremism, even though both are driven by the same motivations and desires, a worldview that hates diversity and believes in asserting its own supremacy.
Following Islamist terrorist attacks, hate preachers and their ideology are interrogated, and today it can be no different.
From America to Britain, attacks against Muslims are on the rise and if we can work together across borders to tackle the rise of extremism, I’d like to know why governments can’t work across borders to tackle the terrorist threat posed by Islamophobic extremists. It is both dangerous and very real.
Today isn’t just a day for bold statements: many Muslims wish to see bold action. Today is a day in which those who played a part in the rise of Islamophobia, who portrayed Muslims as the enemy within, should hold their heads in shame.
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