To combat Islamophobia we need to engage with wider society

Ahmed Makda, a volunteer for the Muslim advocacy group MEND, says that the only way to combat the rising tide of Islamophobia is to proactively engage with society.

In the past few weeks we’ve all read, watched and heard about Islamophobia attacks taking place on London buses. One of the most infamous abusers, Kashif Samuels, who launched a verbal tirade at a disabled Muslim man and threw his zimmer frame off a bus, has been sentenced to 16 weeks in jail.

Result eh? Not quite. One sentence doesn’t make the problem go away.

What about the attack on the Muslim woman allegedly punched in the head and kicked off a bus in South London? And don’t forget Simone Joseph’s Islamophobic verbal abuse at a pregnant Muslim woman on a bus. She even called her an “ISIS b**ch.”

But Simone was subsequently “let off” without a jail sentence.

I really do question why there’s such inconsistency in the legal system when Samuels receives a jail sentence and an equally bad racist attack by Josephs is somehow deemed only to be worthy of a suspended sentence?

Does the law protect us?

Perhaps it’s something to do with the fact that Muslims aren’t protected by the law in the way that racial groups are? For example, why aren’t Muslims protected by the Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006 in the same way that the black, Jewish, Sikh and Hindu communities are?

Islamophobic abuser Kashif Samuels
Islamophobic abuser Kashif Samuels

To explain why let’s go back to my roots and take the example of the Indian Sikh community. Sikhs come from the North West Indian state of Punjab and have a common heritage in this part of India. The famous Golden Temple is in Amritsar and Sikhism is said to have been founded in this area.

Therefore, the law protects Sikhs both under “Race” and “Religion” – they are a common race, all having roots stemming from one province, and they are one religion. So the law protects those from black, Jewish, Sikh and Hindu communities.

Muslims, on the other hand, are seen as coming from all across the globe, not from one common area. For this very same reason, far-right fascists such as the EDL, Britain First, and before them the BNP, are free to hold up slogans such as “No More Mosques,” “Ban the Burkah,” and “Ban Halal meat” etc.

Engagement

Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings upon him), left us with the religion of Islam and with his teachings, but what the Muslim community fail to recognise is that he was also a great statesman and leader of his people.

He built alliances with non-Muslims and was involved in politics along the way to make the life of the new believers a safe haven.

So Muslims MUST engage with their councillors, MPs, Lords and, of course, the media to hold them accountable for negative perceptions of Muslims globally.

Challenge editors, write to your MPs as was the case with Richard Burgon MP of Leeds East who wrote to the Editor of the Daily Mail for the publishing a cartoon likening rats to Muslims crossing into Europe.

The offensive Daily Mail cartoon
The offensive Daily Mail cartoon

He wrote because his Muslim constituents lobbied him and action was taken. We shouldn’t be resting on our laurels and let the world pass us by. Stand up and take action against the Islamophobes!

I’m sure you’ve all read The Sun’s main headline on Monday which read “1 in 5 Muslims’ sympathy for jihadis.” Quite a shocking headline and one which serves their anti-Islam, anti-Muslim agenda.

The editor probably thought: let’s keep the anti-Muslim agenda in the headlines whilst we’ve got them on the back foot.

I’ll be challenging the editor of The Sun on this headline and their “facts” in how they came up with it. Whilst I write this, I would like to congratulate The Mirror and The Independent for standing up and writing against The Sun. Is there any wonder why the Liverpool supporters group “Justice for the 96” group boycott The Sun?

The anti-Muslim media rhetoric and Islamophobic incidents taking place across the country are all down to the stranglehold of Rupert Murdoch’s media empire with their vendetta against Islam. Not just Murdoch’s empire, the BBC are at it too. Aren’t they supposed to be impartial?

The constant barrage of anti-Muslim news stories sooner or later will take hold in the mindset of some narrow-minded people who think the UK’s problems are all down to the minority of 2.7 million UK Muslims out of a population of 64million (2-3% of the UK’s population).

But if Muslim engagement in our wider communities stays stagnant, the same Islamophobia may affect you, your family and loved ones.

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