MEND launches Islamophobia Awareness Month

MEND CEO Sufyan Ismail

The think tank MEND kicked off Islamophobia Awareness Month last night with an event at the Houses of Parliament which was attended by several MPs and leading figures from British Muslim organisations.

Every November Muslim and non-Muslim groups hold events, seminars, discussions and conferences to raise awareness about the rising tide of hate crimes against Muslims.

MEND (Muslim Engagement and Development) founder Sufyan Ismail said Islamophobia Awareness Month is about highlighting the positive contributions that Muslims make to British society and to make people aware about the sheer scale of Islamophobia.

He said: “Islamophobia has become socially acceptable, even mainstream, in our society. The Met police have reported a 67 per cent increase in hate crimes, the Prevent programme targets the community, the media is 21 times more likely to say something negative about Muslims than positive, Asian men are 11 times more likely to be racially profiled at airports, and Muslims are paid 13-21 per cent less than Christians.”

Ismail said MEND would be setting up an Islamophobia Response Unit in December to tackle these issues, but he added that Muslims are patriotic citizens and Theresa May should stop passing counter-terrorism legislation and start engaging with mainstream Muslim organizations.

Meanwhile, Baroness Sayeeda Warsi said that unless Muslims joined with other groups who are suffering discrimination, such those suffering anti-Semitic or homophobic abuse, they wouldn’t be able to achieve anything.

Baroness Sayeeda Warsi
Baroness Sayeeda Warsi

She said: “It’s a really sad state of affairs when you have to prove that Islamophobia exists, but we now have the statistics to prove that it does. But the challenge now is to get people who are not Muslim interested in Islamophobia.”

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Warsi said that one of the drivers of radicalisation was Islamophobia and that if people felt they didn’t belong they would seek places where they do feel they belong.

Other speakers focused on the Prevent counter-terrorism strategy and media Islamophobia.

David Miller, from Bath University, said that Muslims must focus on attacking the Prevent strategy because that is where structural Islamophobia in this country emanates from. But he warned that those who did so would be systematically attacked so they must organise and refuse to stay silent.

And Evan Harris, from the Hacked Off organization, said that while the broadcast media in this country was well regulated the press was not.

He said that Islamophobia in the press stirs up hateful stereotypes about Muslims and Islam and it needs independent and effective regulation.

Journalists like Andrew Gilligan, he said, were labeling people “extremist” simply because they had shared platforms with people who may have said things which were considered to be “extreme.”

And he said that he couldn’t encourage Muslims to complain to the broadcast regulator IPSO because they were unlikely to win a complaint.

You can find more information on Islamophobia Awareness Month here.

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