Back in May, the UK Government rejected a cross-party created definition of Islamophobia. While the process of reaching this definition with the All-Party Parliamentary Group on British Muslims was a brilliant step forward, the findings of their report brought me to this question; are we really doing enough to tackle Islamophobia?
It becomes a hot topic one day, only to be brushed away the next. But for 77,000 Muslims, violent ignorance is not something that can simply be put on the back burner. With 2/3 of Muslim women in Scotland experiencing a hate crime, Muslim representatives receiving threatening tweets and voicemails on a weekly basis, slurs like ‘Paki’ still being thrown around as a part of the ‘culture’ – it has become clear that Islamophobia is growing to become a crisis in this Brexit-centred society.
So, what can we do? What can those on the ground do when even the UK Government won’t take action?
The first thing is to just simply call it out. Silence contributes to the problem, almost as much as the violence itself. We have to be vocal, not just outside on the street or on Twitter, but especially in our own homes.
The secluding walls of our houses often make it easy to be complicit, but home is also where change can take root and spread out. Change does not come about comfortably.
Our own Scottish history tells us that time and time again.
That is why we have to be active and not be afraid of calling out that “old-fashioned” relative, or even our own friends and their ‘banter’; if you wouldn’t say it in front of a random Muslim, you probably shouldn’t be saying it in the first place. Islamophobia has grown far beyond the dinner table test, and only the people sitting at the table can change this.
Sometimes, we need to take a step back from party politics, and this is one of those times. Islamophobia did not emerge from a single party – it emerged out of a whole mix of culture, fearmongering and unethical journalism. The more we can work together on rejecting Islamophobic notions and instead uplifting and supporting our Muslim community leaders and achievements, the better. Collectively highlighting the crucial roles that our religious minorities play in society can only send out a strong message that Islamophobia truly has no space in our communities or in our culture.
The APPG has been a great step forward, but that is all it is currently – a step. We need to take this further and see an implementation of cooperation like this even at the grassroots rather than simply just pointing figures and telling others to fix their internal problems. Work directly with minority groups, speak to the mosques, ask your Muslim community members what’s going on and how we can support them when you’re out there canvassing. We have a responsibility to lead by example, especially on the issues we share a common view on.
If we really want our democracy to shine, then religious discrimination must be openly ousted in this time of growing Islamophobia. If we want our citizens and residents to feel valued, welcomed and safe in this country, then we have to show them that their struggles or abuse are not pawns in this ugly game of politics. The APPG have made a great start highlighting the scope of Islamophobia today, but now is the time to actually do something with those findings and stand against the abuse and rejection of Muslim Scots.