Graffiti on London Muslim Centres Shows the Capital is Not Immune to Hate

Today, three Islamic institutions suffered anti-Muslim graffiti on the bounds of the properties with the letters ‘SAS’ placed on the Imam Al Khoei Islamic Centre in Brent and at the Islamia Girls schools at the Islamic College.

Given the targeted nature of the graffiti, it was deemed to be anti-Muslim in nature, given that it was placed on Islamic institutions in the London Borough of Brent.

What is worrying is that institutions in our diverse capital are not exempt from such targeting and if you come across any such material, please do contact us at TELL MAMA on 0800 456 1226, e-mail us on info@tellmamauk.org or tweet us @tellmamauk.

SAS Islamophobia

SAS Islamophobia 1

SAS  Islamophobia 2

Open Letter to Bigots – A Gurdwara & a Mosque are Different

Dear Sir (and you are most probably male),

We are sickened by the Islamophobic and bigoted graffiti that was scrawled onto the Central Gurdwara in the West End in Glasgow. However it is clear that you thought that the Gurdwara was a mosque, since they kinda all look the same in your eyes. The reality is that Sikhs are not Muslims and saying that, targeting Muslim communities for bigotry and hate should be challenged by us all. No community should suffer the indignity of humiliation of hate just because of one or more facets of their identity.

We also thought that we would highlight the fact that just because a building has a dome, it does not necessarily make it a mosque. Or given the fact that just because practising Sikhs have beards, does not make them Muslims. Or could it have been that you just think that anything ‘foreign’ and ‘different looking’ must be Muslim, since in the darkest recesses of your mind, you think that Muslims are somehow taking over?

Your actions simply reflect on the ignorance that seems to have driven your actions. Furthermore, whilst Sikh communities have been integral to contributing to a modern and diverse country, (as Muslims have), we thought we would highlight the fact that self-defence is a vital part of the Sikh faith and tradition and this is why symbolically, they wear the Kirpan. (You might want to Google that and whilst it is purely symbolic in nature and not used for violence, we thought we would highlight this lest you think of doing this again.)

We therefore hope that you may have the courtesy to apologise to the Gurdwara and to offer to clean the institution as a form of penance. Failing that, there are a few mosques that could do with some help and either way, next time you see a man with a beard, you might just want to reflect on this letter. Or better still, realise that the only person who has been humiliated in this process, is you for the sheer lack of common sense.

Yours sincerely,

TELL MAMA TEAM

Online Islamophobia: A Brief Self-Help Toolkit of Key Information

Online Islamophobia – a Brief Toolkit of Key Information

This brief toolkit on on-line Islamophobia has been put together by TELL MAMA and Dr Imran Awan of Birmingham City University. The leaflet is a self help leaflet to help people to understand on-line Islamophobia and ways of tackling the bigotry, hate and intolerance.

If you use this information leaflet, we would be grateful if you could cite TELL MAMA and Dr Imran Awan.

Australian Islamophobia Campaigner, Mariam Veiszadeh Speaks out to TELL MAMA

Mariam VeiszadehMariam Veiszadeh is a lawyer and advocate for fellow Muslims in Australia. Recently, she suffered a barrage of abuse and hate from US-based neo-Nazis and far right sympathisers. This was in relation to Mariam running an on-line campaign against Woolworths who sold clothing items bearing the Australian flag with the catchphrase, ‘if you don’t love it, leave.’ The supermarket in question was in Cairns in Northern Queensland.

The anti-Muslim and racist abuse that Mariam received trended the Twitter hashtag #IStandwithMariam, with thousands of Twitter accounts circulating the supportive statement.

Here are Mariam’s thoughts in an interview which she conducted with TELL MAMA. This courageous woman is an inspiration to all of us who believe in pluralism, freedom and the right of all people to live free from fear:

Question: What made you want to focus on Islamophobia? Was there a specific incident that triggered it?

There had much discussion amongst community leaders about the need to collate details of incidents of Islamophobia, so I decided that rather than waiting to launch, it would suffice to just start via social media and build it up slowly. I was particularly concerned as anecdotal evidence seemed to suggest a rise in Islamophobia, following the increased anti-terror rhetoric in the media and amongst our politicians.

Question: What is the state of anti-Muslim hate in Australia? Has it increased in the last two years, according to your opinion?

We believe that anti-Muslim sentiments have peaked in recent years, far worse than in the aftermath of 9/11.

Despite widespread allegations of Islamophobic incidents across the country, authorities continue to say, that they have not seen a significant rise in the number of anti-Muslim attacks reported to police.

This is despite the fact that when community tensions are at a boiling point, the Muslim community take it on themselves to offer security to women and children, citing a lack of confidence in authorities to clamp down on religiously motivated attacks.

Question: You have been abused and threatened many times? What gives you strength to get through these incidents?

These recent barrage of personal attacks have made me more determined than ever to keep battling to shed light on Islamophobia and cyber-bullying. I draw strength from my family, friends, wider community, both Muslim and non-Muslim but above all, I draw strength from my faith.

It’s a difficult and emotionally draining journey but it’s worth it. Alhumdullilah.

Question: You are seen as an icon for some Muslim women globally? What do you say to other Muslim women who want to make a difference and push back anti-Muslim hate?

History has shown us time and time again that social change only comes about when we challenge the status quo and persevere so we must rise against Islamophobia and all forms of xenophobia.

Just last week, anti-Islamic protests, organized by a group named ‘Reclaim Australia’, were held in 16 locations all around the country with violence breaking out in Melbourne and Brisbane. The Reclaim movement describe themselves as patriotic Australians who wish to “Stop Halal Taxes, Sharia Law & Islamisation.”

Question: What are the next steps for challenging anti-Muslim hate in Australia?

Incidents of Islamophobia are plainly on the rise but the authorities seem to suggest otherwise.

Having set up the Islamophobia Register Australia to collate reports of anti-Muslim sentiments, I have worked with members of the NSW Police Force.

A number of officers who have dealt with what the force labels “bias-motivated crimes” have expressed to me their deep frustration and utter dissatisfaction about the lack of funding and the lack of seriousness shown by their superiors in relation to efforts to monitor, report and combat threats and attacks against Australian Muslims. At present there is only one full-time officer working on bias-motivated crimes, along with a policy officer.

This is particularly alarming when bigoted groups such as Australian Defence League, Southern Cross Hammerskins, Blood and Honour Australia and Combat 18, (members of whom were allegedly involved in a mosque shooting incident with a rifle in 2010), are on the rise and increasingly exploiting recent anti-Islamic sentiment.

One officer said he shared my concerns that the existing climate had the potential to lead to another Cronulla-style race riot. He even told me that he was worried that he might one day be summoned before a commission of inquiry to explain why he did not act on his concerns and do more to stop such a riot.

A number of officers have also confirmed what we in the community have been hearing anecdotally: that there is a significant rise in the cases of verbal and physical abuse against Australian Muslims. These officers are genuinely trying to tackle Islamophobia but, with scarce resources, their hands are somewhat tied.

To my knowledge, a large proportion of Islamophobic incidents are unreported due to an alarming level of distrust towards the police amongst many in the Muslim community.

We cannot lobby authorities to devote additional resources to help tackle Islamophobia in Australia, if we do not have sufficient verified data to back up what anecdotal evidence seems to suggest – an alarming increase in Islamophobia. It’s therefore vital that victims of Islamophobia do not hesitate to report all incidents both to authorities and to the Islamophobia Register.

Question: Do you think that on-line hate can be reduced?

Authorities are very much in unchartered waters when it comes to regulating the Internet so I am quite pessimistic about online abuse being reduced. The anonymity factor means that people are able to effectively say whatever they want and face zero repercussions.

Question: What are your hopes for the future?

I dream of a day in which Australian Muslims are not required to constantly assert their levels of Australianness.

I dream of day in which Muslims are no longer seen as negotiable citizens in the Western nations that they call their homes.

Mariam can be followed on Twitter through the following handle: @MariamVeiszadeh 

Paul O’Rourke, Strood North UKIP Council Candidate Wants to ‘Hit the Burka’

Previous data that we have released has shown how UKIP sympathisers have been highlighted in statements made to victims of anti-Muslim hate. For example, in statements made to victims by perpetrators between June to December 2014, the hashtag #UKIP comes up in on-line anti-Muslim statements made to victims. This implies, one of a few things; that perpetrators sympathise with UKIP or they believe that UKIP represents their views in some way. (The larger the term, the greater the frequency of use of the term).

UKIP Word Cloud June 2014 - December 2014

 

Today, we had a statement sent to us reportedly made by the UKIP council candidate for the Strood North ward in Rochester in Kent. Paul O’Rourke, it seems, is known for his forthright views on Twitter and for his ardent support of UKIP. Yet in response to a tweet from radio talk show host Jon Gaunt, the UKIP council candidate made the following comment:

Paul O'Rourke, UKIP councillor

It seems that Paul O’Rourke wants to ‘hit the burka’ (sic) and the implications of that statement leave the reader with a range of possible thoughts. The burqa is worn by a small number of conservative Muslim women and the suggestion made by this council candidate should raise a number of questions about his candidacy. Do UKIP supporters or residents in the Strood North ward want an individual promoting such views to represent them? The statement is chilling given that any council candidate should not be promoting any form of violence or suggestions of physical violence.

We hope that UKIP seriously reconsider this person’s candidacy since if the party wants to be taken seriously, then it has to clean house on people making comments that can be viewed as being aggressive, bigoted or threatening in nature. In this case, the threat of aggression towards an item of clothing usually worn by a small number of conservative Muslim women is chilling.

 

Hannah Yusuf Speaks Out on Islamophobia After Her Recent Article

Hannah Yusuf recently penned a poignant piece for the Independent Voices and we had the opportunity to interview her for TELL MAMA. We are grateful for her responses and for the time that she took in responding to our request.

Your article effectively touched on the everyday Islamophobia. Has the incident made your more cautious when flying?

Before the incident I was genuinely convinced that security officials at airports are professionals who think and act objectively. I now doubt this ideal. I am more cautious of the fact that, even in a professional environment, there are individuals who seek to criminalise an entire group of people based on the actions of a minority.

Has it made you think about any other incident of everyday Islamophobia you may have experienced?

There have been a number of instances in which members of the general public behaved in a hateful manner towards me for no reason. But since those incidents didn’t happen in a professional environment, I never saw them as Islamophobic attacks. I often dismissed the individuals as either unfriendly people who are unkind to everyone or as people who had a problem with me for a reason other than my faith.

The Heathrow experience reminded me of one particular incident of very obvious Islamophobia in Switzerland. A middle-aged man sitting opposite me on the tram turned to a young girl next to him and said, in a matter-of-fact way: “she is one of the people who bomb buildings”. Even though this was hurtful, the incident didn’t affect me since it was merely the opinion of someone who isn’t in a position of power.

You end your article nicely about tolerance and the need to recognise Islamophobia in the day-to-day. How important was it for you to speak out and write about this incident?

It is necessary that security officials be given an insight to how damaging it can be alienate youngsters in their own home. I fully understand that this is a case of one intolerant individual, but I can see how someone else may perceive such an individual to be a representation of an entire system.

I found writing to be an outlet for the frustration I felt towards that particular officer. Security services must realise that someone who is subjected to unnecessary humiliation will seek to find a way to deal with the pain. And unfortunately, not everyone does that through writing.

I am by no means suggesting that security services become less thorough in their checks. However, it is important that they remember they’re dealing with human beings who have real feelings. If someone were stopped, it may be better if officers didn’t subject the person to humiliating treatment. Once security officers realise they’ve made a mistake, perhaps an apology or a simple “thank you for your time” might be appropriate.

The article had a lot of online success. What was some of the feedback like? Did people share similar stories or sentiments with you?

There was a divide in the response to the article. A number of commentators criticised me for “complaining” and accused me of being “too sensitive”, which, ironically, proves my point. Unjust treatment towards Muslims has become so common that something must be seriously wrong with anyone who speaks out against it. It baffles me that people are surprised to see that young people are sensitive. We, as young people, are on a continuous search for identity and meaning, and our daily experiences play a big role in finding this.

A few men have told me that I “deserve” it for wearing the hijab, which I found shocking. There’s a big problem when grown men think it’s acceptable to use a woman’s clothing to justify mistreatment. It seems that we live in a time when moral lines are blurred, depending on who is at the receiving end.

On the other end of the spectrum, I’ve had a number of supportive comments. Many young Muslims have reached out to me about similar incidents at airports. Young girls who wear the hijab have spoken to me about feeling like easy targets for Islamophobia. The girls were glad to see a woman with a hijab challenging this issue. The one thing that almost everyone who spoke to me had in common was that they thought this type of unfair treatment was “normal for a Muslim”.

What would your message to be other young Muslims who might not speak out?

The only way we can stop everyday Islamophobia is by speaking out against it. There will be a lot of criticism but remember that there has never been a person standing up against intolerance who wasn’t criticised. Speak to your teachers, counsellors, university lecturers and advisers, or get in touch with organisations like Tell MAMA, who I’m sure will be very happy to guide you.

It’s important that we realise our responsibility to change the negative perception of Muslims. Most people’s knowledge of Islam is based on what is portrayed in the media. We often complain about the media’s misrepresentation of Islam, but we can’t expect mainstream media to ignore the minority of loud voices among a majority of quiet Muslims. Passive condemnation is simply not good enough. We must be active in taking control of our own narrative and reclaim our Muslim identity. If you allow someone else to speak for you then, frankly, you can’t really complain when that someone distorts your story.

We should also encourage dialogue with other faiths. By doing so we can understand the perspective of others, while diminishing negative stereotypes of Muslims. Many interfaith organisations, such as the Joseph Interfaith Foundation, organise seminars to tackle issues surrounding Islamophobia and anti-Semitism. Different faith groups will achieve much more by talking to each other, instead of talking about the other.

I hope my article will remind people that Muslim voices are valued in Britain. All we need to do is be active. The fact that I, a Muslim woman, have been given a platform in a national paper speaks volumes about the opportunities open to us.

The Far Right’s Obsession with Labour & Paedophiles

The far rights obsession with the Labour Party and ‘paedophiles’ is truly worrying given that groups like Britain First spent time, energy and effort to draft up graphics like the one below. Such rhetoric, suggesting that Labour is responsible for ‘paedophilia’ by virtue of immigration, (read Muslims into that), is truly frightening given that some in far right movements actually believe this material. In fact, there is so much wrong with the first graphic that it is hard to know where to start unravelling the contorted and twisted suggestions that the graphic makes.

However, this theme of Labour ‘allowing migration’ and then ‘protecting paedophiles’ – in this case ‘Muslim grooming gangs,’ is a common theme that cuts through a range of far right groups. More sickeningly, the second graphic below had to be doctored by us for the sheer depravity of it, though the text on the sweatshirt makes clear how low these groups will sink in order to agitate and to raise community tensions. Once again, the Labour Party is accused of being a gateway for paedophilia, carried out by ‘Muslims’ as the crescent symbol implies.

Sadly, we will see more of these stomach churning graphics in the next 4 weeks as electoral campaigns ramp up. Yet, it is important to recognise the twisted and convoluted arguments that far right groups are throwing up in the hope that they can damage the Labour Party. No doubt their impact will be minimal, yet it provides an insight into the sheer depravity of these groups who will stoop to lower depths to promote their hate.

Britain First graphic

 

Child Abuse far right

BNP Attempt to Join ‘Pegida’ Rally in 10 Downing Street Today

The British National Party (BNP) are looking to join the handful of ‘Pegida’ sympathisers outside 10 Downing Street at 5 pm today. The gaggle of far right sympathisers will probably not exceed 20-30 people, yet the BNP have been trying to generate interest in their activities by playing on racial and historical lines. One example of this is listed below and plays to fears about ‘Rebecca’ growing up to be an “ethnic minority in her British ancestral homeland.”

The British National Party have disintegrated and are trying to latch onto any publicity that they can get by partnering with Pegida. The British public have seen through these bizarre groups who have become non-entities. They are irrelevant to political life in the United Kingdom and collectively, the British public have sent them packing with a red card.

BNP Graphics

EDL Threaten Walthamstow March on the 9th of May 2015

The English Defence League have threatened to march a few days after the General Election to, “reinforce the need for government action across a wide range of issues.”

The move will anger many local residents who believe that community relations are positive in the area and that the EDL only seem to agitate and bring in their poisonous politics in the area. However, in 2012 when the group last demonstrated, they were penned in by police as anti-fascist and EDL demonstrators squared off against each other and crowd control measures had to be implemented by police.

The local Member of Parliament, Stella Creasey, has worked hard to try and build up stronger community relations in the area and has worked tirelessly with local community groups, faith communities and the voluntary and community sector. She has also been a strong advocate for women’s rights whilst on occasion, being targeted by activists associated with extremists like Anjem Choudhary. She has therefore been instrumental in building strong networks against such groups within the local area with the local authority and civil society groups.

Let us hope that this is only a false threat from extremist EDL activists and that the people of Walthamstow can get on with their lives without the agitation of groups who are simply not wanted in the local area.

English Defence League

Britain First & Anjem Choudhary’s Motley Crew Play Off Each Other

A call to counter-demonstrate against a small rally arranged by the now infamous Anjem Choudhary was on Britain First’s web-site for many days in a flagrant attempt to ratchet up tensions.
Regent's Park EDLBoth sides pitched across the road from each other just off Baker Street and the usual taunts were thrown across at each group whilst worshippers simply tried to enter and leave the Regent’s Park Mosque in Central London. The resulting stress was clear to see on the faces of some of the families and worshippers who were entering the mosque.

One of the worshippers who spoke to a member of the TELL MAMA team said:

“I am just trying to pray and want to come and do my Jumu’ah prayers and I feel frightened and just angry that such people want to play games outside the mosque. All we want is to be left alone to pray and get on with our lives, but this is just getting out of hand, where we have police and groups of people shouting at each other.”

The Regent’s Park mosque administration has on many occasions made clear that people should peacefully attend and worship at the mosque and the doors are always open to those who want peace, spiritual guidance and worship. They have taken a strong stance against any form of political gathering and this includes agitation by groups associated with Anjem Choudhary or Britain First. The mosque management has also made huge efforts to work with other communities to place the mosque in the heart of local communities in Westminster and Camden and such demonstrations, no doubt, affect worshippers and many who have worked hard to build community relations in the area.

We just hope that both of these extremist groups – Britain First and Anjem Choudhary’s brigade of followers realise that they are not wanted. They are remnants of a past which survived on agitating each other – and they represent all that the majority of people do not want. However, sadly we may see more of their inflammatory actions before we see calm heads prevail.