Islamophobia is insidious – what can we do to stop it?

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Islamophobia is on the rise in the UK, especially since the 2017 terrorist attacks.

As of late, an inquiry has been called as there have been allegations of Islamophobia in the Conservative Party. There have been multiple cases such as Conservative MP for Harrow East, Bob Blackman who shared a link from an anti-Muslim US website and retweeted Tommy Robinson. David Boston, running for councillor in Enfield, was suspended days before the local elections this year for posting an image of bacon hanging from a door handle with the caption ‘Protect your house from terrorism. Stay safe lads.’ Baroness Warsi, a Conservative peer, has spoken out against the Conservative Party’s lack of action and has stated that “it’s burying its head in the sand and now unfortunately it’s playing out in a very embarrassing way.”

Anti-Muslim hatred is growing in the UK and it is extremely worrying. The media has had a large role to play in influencing this divisive mindset. Facts have been distorted, and anti-migrant and anti-Muslim rhetoric has merged into Islamophobia. Hatred had been legitimised, especially since the Brexit referendum, which became a chance for those against immigration to make their voice heard.

Anti-Muslim hatred is not just symbolic. It has seeped into Muslim communities and affected their everyday lives. Between 2016 and 2017, religious hate crimes increased by 35 per cent. Between 2016 and 2017, the number of hate crimes directed at mosques more than doubled. A Government report last year by the Social Mobility Commission found that only 19.8% of Muslims (1 in 5) aged 16-74 were in full-time employment, compared to 45% of the population as a whole. Barriers that they face include stereotyping, minority ethnic-sounding names reduce the likelihood of people being offered an interview, and harassment. Young Muslims have also reported having to work “10 times as hard” to get on. Women with headscarves, which includes many of our beneficiaries, had specific discrimination when entering the workplace.

Far-right extremism is on the rise, in response to hatred against the Muslim community and Islam. The #FreeTommy campaign, a campaign to release extremist Tommy Robinson from prison for contempt of court, is dangerous as it legitimises freedom of expression to the extent that it may discriminate against minority communities. There are many new Far-right groups emerging, such as Generation Identity, which believes that Europe is being ‘Islamised.’ Some groups are preparing for a ‘war against Islam’, such as the banned group National Action. These groups are becoming more and more popular. These discriminatory views against Muslims, and other minorities, are being more and more commonplace, and that is extremely worrying in a society in which British values preach tolerance and acceptance.

Three million Muslims live in the UK. That is less than 5% of the overall population. Yet the media and rhetoric has created the image that Muslims are taking over the country. This is unacceptable, and as a charity that caters largely to Muslim women we find it abhorrent that these women suffer Islamophobic abuse.

What can we do to stop it? The Integrated Communities Strategy green paper, released this year, noted that levels of English amongst the Muslim population are lower than the general population. Integration of Muslim communities has been seen as an issue by the British government. However, funding for ESOL has fallen by over 50% since 2009. This is funding that charities, such as JAN Trust, rely on, in order to integrate beneficiaries into British society. Therefore, hatred of Muslims has been exaggerated by the lack of action on the part of the government to integrate Muslim communities and to emphasise the benefits of multiculturalism.

At JAN Trust we aim to keep speaking out about Islamophobia and raising awareness of the issue. Islamophobia must be equated with anti-Semitism and other forms of religious discrimination. If you see an Islamophobic incident, please do not stay silent and please report it to the police. The more the police become aware of the issue of Islamophobia, the more chance there is that it can be tackled.

To find out more about the work we do, visit www.jantrust.org.

About JAN Trust

JAN Trust (www.jantrust.org) is a multi award winning not for profit organisation formed in the late 1980′s. We are based in London and cater for women and youth from disadvantaged and marginalised communities. Our work and services are delivered locally, nationally and internationally. Our aim is to create positive and active citizens of society by educating, empowering and encouraging women and youth. We are dedicated to the cause of combating poverty, discrimination, abuse and social exclusion among Black, Asian, minority ethnic, refugee and asylum seeking (BAMER) women. JAN Trust is making a real difference in improving the lives of communities; promoting human and women's rights as well as community cohesion. We provide a range of services and our work has been recognised by a variety of dignitaries. Check out our website for statements from some of our supporters: http://www.jantrust.org/what-people-say
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