Islamophobia sells. Islamophobia is organised. Islamophobia is growing.
We started LAMP a year ago with these three facts in mind. HOPE not hate’s polling over the last eight years has uncovered hardening attitudes towards Muslims in the UK. LAMP was launched to help keep track of these worsening attitudes, provide news, and deliver analysis about the organised Islamophobia industry.
Worryingly, our polling over the last 12 months shows more people in Britain believe that Islam is incompatible with the British way of life than those who think it is compatible. More people also believe that there are ‘no go zones’ in Britain, where sharia law dominates and non-Muslims cannot enter, than not. This simply is not true, but in these divided times the spread in such conspiracies should concern us all.
But there were also amazing stories of solidarity and support this year. Characters like Mo Salah, the Egyptian footballer for Liverpool who has done so much to counter negative stereotypes, came to the fore. Julie Siddiqi, who works on bringing Muslim and Jewish women together, has not been afraid to call out those who push intolerance or division. One initiative that has also impacted anti-Muslim hate was the creation of the Centre for Media Monitoring, officially launched by the Muslim Council of Britain earlier this year, which is attempting to keep reported facts around Muslims as accurate as possible. The Centre has forced the retraction of many misleading or false statements in national media.
LAMP has uncovered the actions of the ‘Identitarian’ movement, whose conspiratorial beliefs about a ‘great replacement’ (of white Europeans) were used as a supposed justification for mass murder by terrorists in Christchurch, New Zealand and El Paso, Texas. We also criticised the Conservative Party’s lack of action over rising evidence of Islamophobia in the party. Our 2018 YouGov survey of more than 10,000 respondents showed that just under half of Conservative voters believed that Islam was incompatible with the British way of life, compared to 22% of Labour voters. You can read about the systemic issue here. The Government also rejected a much-discussed definition of Islamophobia.
On an international level, we watched with alarm as the actions of the Chinese government against its Muslim Uighur population went mostly unchallenged. There is now a growing body of evidence showing the Chinese authorities have been engaging in mass arbitrary detention, torture and mistreatment of Uighurs in Xinjiang. Human Rights Watch, a non-profit group based in New York, has alleged “rampant abuses,” including torture and unfair trials of the population. Around 10% of the Uighur population of Xinjiang is locked up, according to the U.S. government and human rights organisations. While Muslim-majority countries have either supported China’s efforts as ‘against terrorism’, or remained silent, the US has been (perhaps surprisingly considering how President Trump has been legislating against Muslims) pushing for China to be held accountable.
The Christchurch shootings, where a white supremacist burst into a mosque during Friday prayers and gunned down 50 men, women and children, is one of the the most obvious example of what happens when anti-Muslim hate is left unchecked. But the friend telling me earlier this week about her headscarf being pulled off, or the insults she’s heard growing up in the UK, is just as important a reason to challenge Islamophobia and hatred wherever it’s found.
Dennis Kirschbaum was born into a neo-Nazi family, became part of a far-right gang and was encouraged to join both Hezbollah and the Islamic state – all before he turned 21. He describes his long road to becoming the interfaith activist and de-radicalisation expert he is today.
It’s not about the Burqa is a book exploring Muslim women’s lives in Britain and fleshing out the diversity within. The writers discuss themes of cultural homelessness and identity and touch upon the headscarf, faith, love, feminism, the failings of their communities and of their countries. The editor, and one of the writers, Mariam Khan, discusses how she put the book together and why she believes it’s so relevant today.
In a society where distrust and hostility towards Muslims is measurably increasing, there seems to be no accountability to treat narratives about Muslims with any sense of caution. Maatin Patel explains why TV and film need to do better when it comes to portraying Muslims.