by Qari Asim, Imam, Makkah Mosque Leeds
Hatred towards British Muslims and Jews remains, thankfully, confined to the nasty margins of our society. But it still exists. In September, the Met Police released the latest hate-crime figures for London, showing that offenses against Jews had risen by 93% and offenses against Muslims had risen by 70% over the last year.
The rise of anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim Hatred is a challenge to our vital values, to the core of who we are. Our societies’ capacity for openness, for tolerance, for inclusion is being tested.
In the wake of the Paris attacks, anti-Muslim attacks have arisen considerably. Tell-Mama, an organisation which records incidents of verbal and physical attacks on Muslims and mosques in the UK, reports a 300% rise in reports of attacks against Muslims since the devastating events of Paris. A similar trend emerged in the aftermath of the murder of Fusilier Lee Rigby in Woolwich.
Since the Paris attacks on 13 November, there has been a considerable increase in bigotry and hostility on the streets in terms of verbal abuse and physical attacks against Muslims. The majority of these attacks have been levelled at women, who are wearing headscarves, a visual sign of their religious identity. Some Muslim women have experienced more than just a ‘low-level’ of bigotry. Attacks have included threatening behaviour, intimidation or physical violence. There have been incidents of women being asked to leave a train, being spat on at bus stops, headscarves being snatched in the street, and being asked to leave Britain. All of these are enough to make anyone feel scared and vulnerable in their own home, let alone on the street.
In many instances, the public do not seem to be intervening to help the victim either because they did not find the behavior of the perpetrators ‘unacceptable’, which is extremely troubling, or because the assailants are so aggressive and hostile that people fear harm from them towards themselves. If this is the case, one can only imagine how threatened and fearful of constant attacks Muslim women must feel for themselves, their children and their families.
As an independent member of the government’s anti-Muslim Hatred Working Group, I am deeply concerned about the rise in anti-Muslim sentiments year on year. But I am equally disturbed by anti-Semitic attacks.
Anti-semitism and anti-Muslim prejudice is a matter for everyone who cares about our tolerant and fair society. In multi-belief and multi-cultural Britain, no one should feel intimidated or threatened because of their faith or lifestyle. We must send out a strong message that anti-Muslim hatred and anti-Semitism are forms of prejudices that have no place in Britain. We must join hands and heads to eliminate prejudice, bigotry and intolerance from our society – whether it be anti-Semitism, anti-Muslim hatred or hatred towards other minority communities.
Muslims and Jews have historically been singled out in Europe as the archetypal “other”. The relatively recent horrific experience of Jews during the Holocaust and the genocide of Muslims in Bosnia suggest that the rise of hate should not be taken lightly. The rise of nationalist sentiment in Europe is a development that neither Muslims nor Jews can overlook.
We have a common ‘enemy’, a common cause, a shared challenge, and through our united efforts we can overcome this challenge. Muslims and Jews can benefit from mutual working and cooperation to tackle prejudice and bigotry towards them. More importantly, if Muslims and Jews expect the rest of Britain to stop all forms of bigotry and hatred towards them, they must also eliminate hatred, bigotry and intolerance from within their own communities. Such prejudice is usually borne out of ignorance, suspicion, mistrust knowing the other.
When Muslims and Jews will explore solutions together, from the fight against hate crime and hate speech to the role of civil society, both communities will mutually benefit. In the current political climate, there is a dire need to spread love, empathy, and reconciliation to replace hatred, fear and anger. As long as we stand together and see the good in each other, we can build a better and safer world for all people.