The recently appointed Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, is no saviour for British Muslims and people of colour, writes Sahar Al-Faifi.
According to the Census 2011, the Muslim population of the UK was around 4.8%, which is about two million people. Yet it is well-known that Muslims are considerably under-represented in British politics and media.
If we hypothetically compare the population of Muslims in Britain to the rest of society, from a proportionate representative perspective there should be 32 Muslim MPs out of the 650, but currently there are only 16 Muslim MPs. However, the good news is that half of these Muslim MPs are women.
The election of Sadiq Khan as the Mayor of London shows the progression of British politics, although he received countless Islamophobic attacks on social for running. Nevertheless, British Muslims never hither to been appointed into the cabinet despite the fact they the biggest religious minority in the UK. Therefore, some may see the appointment of Sajid Javid as Home Secretary as the light at the end of the tunnel, but most British Muslims see his appointment as a mere exercise of tokenism to cover up the racist Windrush scandal.
The previous Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, was responsible for the Windrush scandal as she and Theresa May set up hostile policies designed to make permanent residency in the UK difficult, in the hope that people or whom she calls “illegal immigrants” may self-deport.
The children of African-Caribbean Windrush generation who arrived before 1973 were threatened with deportation if they could not prove their right to remain in the UK. Undoubtedly, these hostile policies targeted black and people of colour minorities such as the Windrush community who came legally to the UK after WWII, reflecting the institutional and structural racism embedded within the current government.
Some might have hoped that the appointment of Sajid Javid would change the racist and hostile policies of the Conservative Party, but the new Home Secretary’s record suggests that he in fact has the potential to further imbed racial inequalities through his unequivocal support of the current status-quo.
Mr Javid has voted in favour of the government having mass surveillance powers to monitor communications and activities and voted in favour of the mass retention of information on people’s internet usage, which tremendously undermine our civil liberties.
When it comes to immigration policies, his record is much worse. Mr Javid voted in favour of stricter policies against asylum seekers and more deportation powers. He even voted against banning the detention of pregnant women in immigration centres.
It does not stop here, back in 2013, Mr Javid voted to remove the Commission for Equality and Human Rights’ duty to support the development of societies where people’s ability to achieve their potential is not limited by prejudice or discrimination.
One might ask whether Mr Javid’s Muslim heritage would better enable him to address the inequalities and Islamophobia faced by British Muslims after his appointment. Sadly, this has not historically, nor is it likely to be the case.
Furthermore, considering the concerns that many Muslims have regarding the treatment of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories, one may find it surprising that before Mr Javid had even addressed the Muslim community on his appointment as Home Secretary, he wholeheartedly confirmed his continued support to blocking the Boycott, Diversity and Sanctions (BDS) movement.
Mr Javid’s continued lack of engagement with British Muslim communities is concerning, and one cannot help but wonder whether it is a strategic decision to reinforce that he is a “good Conservative” who will toe the party line, especially when it comes to campaigning against Israeli policies and movements such as boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS).
It is commendable that he has addressed a Jewish synagogue, but it only reinforces his failure to meet with any Muslim groups or, like many of his colleagues have done in the past and visited a mosque.
Moreover, Mr Javid unlike large swathes of the Muslim and wider community, welcomed the appointment of Sara Khan as the head of the commission on counter extremism.
Sarah Khan intentionally refused to support the Muslim community’s concerns surrounding the highly discriminatory Prevent strategy, and instead has acted as a staunch advocate of the controversial CVE programme which has been slammed by senior police officials, the UN rapporteur and hundreds of academics.
Black Skin, White Masks
With all the above in mind, one may raise the question whether Mr Javid’s identity is used as a veneer to conceal the ugly and racist policies of Amber Rudd who sat at the Political Council of the Islamophobic think-tank Henry Jackson Society for some years before she dissociated herself from it.
HJS is a leading exponent of alt-right neoconservative Zionism in the UK. The group was founded by Douglas Murray, who once said, “To have less terrorism, the UK needs less Islam”, suggesting that the Islamic faith is the sole motivator for terrorism.
In addition, HJS has been aggressively attacking mainstream British Muslim organisations such as the Muslim Engagement & Development (MEND), the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), the Islamic Education & Research Academy (IERA), CAGE and others in an attempt to silence voices of dissent.
It seems that if Mr Javid is not a player, he is indeed a victim of a system based on the exploitation of a given race by another, something that European colonial powers are known for and historically flourished on. Frantz Fanon, a post-colonial theorist explained this phenomenon in his book ‘Black Skin, White Masks’ when he argued that the subjects of oppressive colonial systems are forced to renounce their own culture and identity in order to be acceptable to the dominant force; in other words, to be taken seriously and to be considered a “legitimate voice”, you have to hide aspects of your cultural and religious identity so that you do not upset the socio-political status-quo.
I truly believe it is our collective responsibility whether we are white, black, of faith or no faith to challenge any discriminatory policies and laws, expose their failures, halt any exploitation of race and turn our back on the inhuman divisive voices to enable authentic communications between all diverse groups for the shared common good of a just and harmonious society.
Sahar Al-Faifi is a molecular geneticist by training and a community activist by passion. She is also a blogger for the Huffington Post UK, has written for The Independent, and participated in many TV shows and debates. You can follow Sahar on Twitter @SaharAlFaifi