I am writing this, hours after having Islamophobic abuse hurled at me and my mother in our own neighbourhood, I called 101, spoke to an operator, an officer will be in touch to take statements – but then what? What happens after that?
Thirty years ago, In the same town that I was abused in today, my grandfather was welcomed at his corner-shop business with a pigs head left on the doorstep of his flat just days after moving in. It was, and still is, a white majority town – with populations that want to keep it that way, and have managed to continually foster the sentiment of hating anything that does not resemble them – all the way into 2019. Islamophobia was not born after 9/11, nor was it bred out of sheer ignorance – what myself and many others endure is the product of a multi-faceted systematic failure to re-educate pockets of British society.
The problem is not singularly the lack of recognition of Islamophobia in communities, but the persisting failure to act and respond accordingly in places where an impression can be made. We cannot ignore how the dismissal of Muslim losses and selective empathy to which lives are noteworthy, academies and institutions ultimately dehumanise Muslims as relevant members of their communities. I even attempted to bridge the ‘gap’ of understanding and called up the school I used to attend, and where my relatives still do attend. Following the New Zealand attacks, I asked them what they had done to support their Muslim minorities, asked them if they had even attempted to address the emotional impact, or – if they had anything to say or any support to offer regarding the further Islamophobic crimes committed against students who attend their school. All I got in response was a clueless receptionist who said she would “speak to the headmaster.” Nothing happened after that.
I know I can speak from my own experiences in secular, white majority schools, where instances occurred so regularly that I partially became desensitised to the idea of them being harmful. Bomb jokes, references to terrorists, assumptions about my identity, questions with malicious undertones – these became part of my school routine and have become a part of my younger sister’s, and likely many others’ day to day school lives also. The same academy has members of staff that turn a blind eye to anti-Muslim sentiment in the classroom, be it verbal or physical abuse. I know it, I have seen it, I have been there.
Where is the action?
The question we must raise is, why? Why after so many years are the same community made to feel unwelcome and why does blatant hate get brushed under the rug? Why has nothing changed? The nothingness has reduced Muslims to being unworthy and undeserving of protection, and to fuel that further we suffer the effects of mass media rhetoric and it’s distortion of Muslim populations. So many people remember names like Shamima Begum because of the hate inducing rhetoric and national coverage, but how may of those same individuals remember the names of the victims of the 2017 acid attacks, how many remember Nabra? How many of your colleagues and neighbours would gladly chime in their opinion of Muslims using Shamima as a pedestal, but would have nothing to say if you told them you were personally attacked for looking too Muslim? This kind of selectivity and national hostility has made it easier to keep Muslim populations into states of austerity – so that the widespread anti-Islam sentiment can remain unaffected.
I have devised a stupidly simple list to help identify the types of hate Muslims experience, because the non-physical types are often not identified as Islamophobia.
Both the perpetrator and the bystander assume that gestures and noises are vague enough not to be recognised as hate crime. In 2017, I had an incident where a young man followed me with his friends making stereotypical noises and gestures, the eventuality of this was him having to go to court, paying hefty fines as well as community service and an apology to me. However, he had determined his actions as ‘just sounds,’ and that his peers who laughed along and condonded what he did were ‘innocent.’
This instance was a one-off, where the police were able to identify the perpetrator via his phone number, but the officers I spoke to today regarding yesterday’s abuse made a seemingly aimless door to door effort to find the guys. Because, of course they would own up to it if the police turn up on their doorstep, right?
Part of The Problem
Here’s the nitty-gritty stuff. If you are complacent and unbothered by the attacks on Muslims, you are a contributor to the system that perpetuates Islamophobia as silently accepted. If you protect perpetrators after they incite hate, you are a contributor to the system that perpetuates Islamophobia as silently accepted. If you laugh along and condone hateful speech, you are a contributor to the system that perpetuates Islamophobia as silently accepted. If you are a bystander and take no action, you are a contributor to the system that perpetuates Islamophobia as silently accepted.
Anti-Muslim hate is visible, it is apparent and you, we, can recognise it if we collectively bother.