The world, as I see it, has become more intolerant, more bigoted and more racist. There is a rise in all forms of racism but two cultures/religions seem to be under attack more than others. I have already written about one in “The Damage done by False Antisemitism Claims and the Weaponisation of the Holocaust”. Muslims are the second community being subjected to more racist attacks worldwide. I will be using information I have found on sites around the internet and I will provide links within the text so readers can also look at the sites, the rest is my opinion and should be treated as such.
The increase in Islamophobia first became apparent after the events of 11 September 2001 (9/11) in which 2,977 people lost their lives. Immediately after the attacks America went on the offensive and began its endless war against terrorism mainly in Iraq and Afghanistan. There was also a dramatic rise in Islamophobia throughout the USA fuelled by ignorance and bigotry as a result of political and social reactions. This rise in hate crimes against Muslim did not just last for the weeks that immediately followed 9/11, they have continued throughout the 20 years since then. In 2000 the number of reported hate crimes against Muslims was just 28, that number jumped to 481 in 2001. Before 9/11 hate crimes against Muslims were the second-least reported religious-biased incidents but afterwards they were the second most reported.
In the week that followed 9/11 3 people were killed in America because of Islamophobia. Balbir Singh Sodhi was killed in Arizona on 15 September 2001. He was actually Sikh but Frank Roque, who shot and killed him, thought he was Muslim because of the turban he was wearing. Roque had been drinking at a sports bar and had been ranting about immigrants and saying that he wanted to “kill a Muslim”. Roque was later tried and imprisoned for life for first degree murder. On the same day Waqar Hasan and Vasudev Patel were shot and killed in Texas by Mark Anthony Stroman who said he did it because he wanted to “avenge” the United States for 9/11. He was later tried for the murder of Vasudev Patel but not Waqar Hasan. He was found guilty and sentenced to death. He was executed on July 20 2011 by lethal injection. The hatred towards Muslims has not stopped and in 2017 75 per cent of American Muslims said there is a lot of discrimination against them and 48 per cent of those who responded said that they had experienced at least one incident of discrimination during the previous year.
After the start of Donald Trump’s Presidential campaign in 2016, Islamophobia peaked and the number of assaults on Muslim Americans rose appreciably between 2015 -16. In 2016 there were 127 reports of aggravated or simple assault against Muslims compared with 91 in 2015. Intimidation would appear to be the most common type of hate crime against Muslims and other religious groups, and the reported number in 2016 was 144 compared with 120 the year before. Overall there were 307 reported incidents of anti-Muslim hate crimes which was a 19 per cent increase from the previous year. On January 27 2017 Donald Trump signed an Executive Order that banned nationals from seven predominantly Muslim countries for 90 days. Entry for all Syrian refugees was suspended indefinitely and all other refugees were prohibited from entering America for 120 days. Although this executive order was challenged by ACLU in Washington and other organisations it fuelled anti-Muslim feelings in America, particularly amongst those who had voted for Trump. When Joe Biden became the American President one of the first things he did was to issue an Executive Order ending Trump’s Muslim ban which was one of several positive immigration policy changes.
A week after the Christchurch mosque attacks in New Zealand in 2019, the number of reported anti-Muslim hate crimes in the UK increased by 593 per cent. The majority of the incidents were acts of intimidation and verbal abuse but some mosques and Muslims were physically attacked. In the week following the attack on the Manchester Arena the reported number of hate crimes against UK Muslims rose by 700 per cent. Some believe that the rise in anti-Muslim feelings in the UK is being fuelled by irrational fears among the middle-class. According to statistics, 18 per cent of people in the UK have very negative views about Islam and 44 per cent of them fear that Islam is a massive threat to the Western way of life. On the positive side 32 per cent of people in the UK believe that Islam is compatible with the British way of life compared to 31 per cent who don’t.
In January 2021 Sofia Akel conducted research about The Rise of Islamophobia in Higher Education at London Metropolitan University. In November 2020 London Metropolitan University became the first UK university to adopt the working definition of “Islamophobia” as offered by the All Party Parliamentary Group on British Muslims. Some Muslim students who responded remarked on how their academic spaces could often become places where they were ridiculed and could be subjected to injustice and discrimination. Some of them recalled lectures where their beliefs had been called “medieval” and “not compatible with the modern world” by their lecturers under the guise of “academic discussion.”
“A lecturer made a remark ‘I bet you get searched everywhere you go with a name like that’ to a student in a large gathering. The student was lost for words and clearly upset.“
5.4 per cent of students felt that their contributions to academic discussions were disproportionately scrutinised by lecturers and their peers due to prejudice against Islam. Some felt unable to research topics of interest because they were afraid of being branded as radical or dangerous. As somebody who thoroughly enjoyed their time in college and at University I was saddened by this. Having access to materials that enable students to research topics that really interest them is one of the great joys of being a student and I feel that the students who made those responses were deprived of that experience. I was also disturbed about the fact that lecturers are displaying their prejudice and are discriminating against students because of the students religious beliefs.
A poll conducted by Hope Not Hate in 2018, found that of those who voted Tory in 2017 49 per cent thought Islam was a real threat to the British way of Life. Of the Labour voters who responded, 22 per cent thought Islam was a threat. The report stated that the Conservative party could do more to challenge this negative view of its voters. Hope Not Hate also suggested that Brexit could be exploited by the far-right and stated that “Divisions within Britain are likely to increase and this will further split communities and boost the far-right’s populist anti-politics message.” In February 2020 Abdul Rahman al-Hussein wrote “In the shadows of the Brexit vote and a new movement toward nationalism, the U.K. has seen a significant increase in the number of hate crimes against Muslims in the past few years.” He went on to say that it was Muslim women that are targeted the most in recent hate crimes so some have started to wear caps instead of the traditional hijab. In 2018 Tasnim Nazeer wrote that “Former foreign secretary Boris Johnson’s Facebook page has played host to hundreds of Islamophobic messages following his comments where he described Muslim women who have chosen to wear the burka as looking like “letterboxes” and “bank robbers.” She goes on to write “He cannot deny the fact that his comments have fuelled the recent spike of anti-Muslim hate in the UK.” In my opinion, his racist views and his campaign slogan “Get Brexit Done” is what won the Tories the general election in December 2019. It appealed to the right wing, racist element of this country who have blamed immigrants and even British born people from ethnic minority communities for all that is wrong in their lives. This is fuelled by right wing mainstream media like the Daily Mail and The Sun with banner headlines. On 30 May 2018 the Daily Mail’s headline was “Most Brits believe that migration has harmed communities and fear the nation’s culture and traditions are being lost, Left-leaning think-tank claims” The so called left-leaning think-tank was Demos which was once thought of as being close to Tony Blair who is centrist. How many people were polled? Where in the country were they? Was it a good representation of communities within Britain? I could not find answers to those questions so for all I know it could have been members of EDL or the National Front questioned. This seems to be a trait of right wing media … banner headlines and no actual facts or evidence to back up these headlines.
The cross government working group on Anti-Muslim hatred commissioned new research, and found that Covid-19 sparks online Islamophobia as fake news and racist memes are shared online. The research showed that Islamophobic online ‘Cyber Hubs’ were being created which linked Muslims to the spread of Covid-19, spread fake news and shared anti-Muslim memes. Among fake news theories being shared were – Mosques are responsible for the spread of Covid-19; Muslims are super-spreaders of the virus; Muslims are not observing social distancing rules and police give favourable treatment to Muslims for fear of being classed as racist. One video that was shared on the Tommy Robinson News channel on the messaging app Telegram, claimed to show Muslim men leaving a secret mosque in Birmingham after prayer. Although West Midlands police have checked and confirmed that the mosque is closed and the fact that the video is a fake, it has been watched more than 14,000 times. This type of bigotry reinforces the “us vs them” narrative by referencing issues like poverty, social standing, social mobility and cohesion as well as deprivation. This fuels the hatred and bigotry and leaves Muslims more at risk once lockdown is finally lifted. One particularly foul, offensive tweet stated “We all need to avoid muzrats who are still attending mosque. They believe allah will fly down from his rainbow and save them while infecting infidels.” Muzrat is a word that bigots use to label Muslims as vermin and a disease. I am both saddened and angered by this blatant display of hatred and ignorance. Studies and statistics have shown that people from BAME communities are more susceptible to Covid-19. The first 11 doctors who died were all from BAME backgrounds. Would these bigots refuse treatment from Muslim doctors and nurses if they were unfortunate enough to catch Covid-19? Of course they wouldn’t because they value their lives and are not beyond hypocrisy.
Lizzie Dearden wrote about the use of old and fake videos being used to blame Muslims for the spread of Covid-19. She stated that Tommy Robinson, Gerard Batten (former leader of UKip) and Katie Hopkins were all sharing posts that targeted Muslims. Bigotry seems to have become almost socially acceptable and not only is it fuelled by fake news, racist memes and ignorance, it is also being fuelled by right wing mainstream media and politicians, and so called celebrities, like Katie Hopkins, on social media. Mainstream media and far-right groups such as the English Defence League (EDL) made a “hero” out of Tommy Robinson when he was arrested whilst filming outside a court during a trial for grooming underage girls. He was courted by Gerard Batten and became a social media star with many followers who all thought of him as a patriot and a hero.
I could write a lot more on this subject as it is not only America and the UK that has seen a rise in Islamophobia but basically it will just be more of the same which is just so very frustrating and disappointing. We are now in the 21st century and the time of bigotry and hatred should have been over long ago. It seems that every time something out of the ordinary happens, like a pandemic or bombing, or when peoples lives are not going the way they wanted them to, then some of us have to find somebody to blame. They seem to always end up blaming on people who follow a different religion or live in a different way to them. Is it fear or is it ignorance and the need to lay blame at another’s door? Maybe it is all of them or maybe it is something completely different. All I know for sure is that I do not and never will understand this almost pathological hatred that some people have for others.
Chief Rabbi, Mainstream Media and the smears against Jeremy Corbyn (Guest post by Peter Gregson) Chairperson of LAZIR)