Islamophobia: Given the newspaper headlines following Richard Mawrey’s findings against the ex-Mayor of Tower Hamlets and given that the topic of Islamophobia has been headlined, we felt the need to respond knowing that there will be some who sadly use this whole sorry affair to throw aspersions that victims of anti-Muslim hate are making it up.
Before we continue, we usually refer to Islamophobia through the more specific term of anti-Muslim hate, though we are aware that the term Islamophobia is well recognised and does include anti-Muslim hate incidents. This is also one of the reasons for a need to respond to the headlines that have been associated with the Lutfur Rahman case.
Findings of the Court: Mawrey’s findings have been damning and open up the way for new elections in Tower Hamlets.
We are not going to focus on the politics of Tower Hamlets and this is not our role. Yet, this case is damaging for trust and confidence in the term Islamophobia and we have repeatedly made clear that clarion calls of Islamophobia, when there is no clear evidential basis to it, not only damages the term, it also reduces trust and confidence in victims of anti-Muslim hate when they raise such issues. Therefore, not only have Tower Hamlets residents been affected by the political limelight on the area, victims of anti-Muslim hate have also been affected by the actions of those who chose to highlight racism and prejudice as the primary reason for a focus on their local actions. Only time will really tell how much of an impact this affair has had on access to justice for victims of anti-Muslim hate.
Islamophobia Abound: Yet, there is another issue that needs raising here and which is troubling. There are groups who are travelling the length and breadth of our country promoting the notion that this country is one that is Islamophobic and that this is a major issue affecting Muslim communities. In fact, there are lots of issues that are affecting Muslim communities from employment rates through to housing and poor health indicators.
These groups who place Islamophobia as the key issue affecting Muslim communities are also doing what Mawrey stated. They are playing politics on an issue which Muslim communities are sensitive to and trying to build support whilst caustically talking about our country in the bleakest of ways. Such groups play down our country, insinuate that most non-Muslims are Islamophobic and that the future of Muslims in the UK is bleak. These statements are simply not true and simply keep individuals in a mindset where they feel dis-empowered. This is the last thing that Muslim communities need.
In fact, if there is one organisation that has systematically documented and methodically worked with police forces and Central Government to tackle anti-Muslim hatred, it is TELL MAMA. As we have stated, hyping up the issue and building a sense of fear as though it is overwhelming, is neither healthy for Muslim communities, nor does it warrant such talk. This country is one of the safest in Europe and we need to bear this in mind.
The risks to Muslim communities are low, yet, the impacts of hate crimes on victims are significant and this is why our work is important. Whilst we must not be complacent to such threats, (and the anti-Muslim backlash after the murder of Lee Rigby was a clear example of such a community threat), these risks are few and far between and are being actively managed within resources by local police forces.
Victims of anti-Muslim hate: It is important to support victims of anti-Muslim hate, ensure access to justice and to show victims that the system works and where it does not, to ensure that problems are quickly rectified. Hyperbolic statements that Islamophobia are all consuming in our country are simply false and this is also why the Lutfur Rahman judgement is damning. It is damning since it calls out those who used this term for political gain, whilst also sending a clear message to those working in this area that it is essential that we also call out those using the term in a corrosive manner for political gain.