Islamophobia – it’s real

More people in Britain believe that Islam is incompatible with the British way of life than those who think it is compatible, and more people believe that there are ‘no go zones’ in Britain, where sharia law dominates and non-Muslims cannot enter, than not. The results of an exclusive YouGov poll of over 10,000 people commissioned by HOPE not hate in July 2018 are staggering – but also a natural consequence of rising Islamophobia in the UK and abroad. Apparent in both the dog-whistle politics of mainstream politicians and the sharp increase in violent attacks against Muslims in Britain following the EU referendum, there is a visible hardening of attitudes towards Muslims in the West. Our survey also revealed that 28% of Britons believe Islamist terrorists reflect a widespread hostility to Britain among the wider Muslim community. The battle against Islamophobia and anti-Muslim bigotry and prejudice is complicated by the refusal of some to even admit the existence of Islamophobia, or the terminology that can be used to describe it.
Objections such as “it’s not Islamophobia, it’s Islamo-realism”, “I don’t hate Muslims, I hate Islam”, “Muslims are not a race so it’s not racism” and “we should be able to criticise religions” are constant refrains, often used to excuse intolerance, bigotry and hate towards followers of Islam or to divert the conversation away from the issue onto a debate about the validity of the word “Islamophobia” itself. Islamophobia is real. Quibbling over the term distracts from the issue. Countering Islamophobia is not about curtailing free speech or limiting criticism of the faith either. It is about ensuring a minority community is not stigmatised, discriminated against, or suffering hate crimes. Muslims are not the only ones who are targeted by this hate either. South Asian-looking citizens in the UK have sometimes been identified or targeted as ‘Muslims’, no matter the supposed distinction between race and religion. This has led to dangerous overlaps such as recurring stories of Sikh men getting their turbans ripped off while being hurled with Islamophobic abuse. Despite European Muslims condemning cultural phenomena such as so-called “honour killings” and forced marriage as cultural practices in need of eradicating, they are nevertheless seen as imported Muslim behaviours, as “backward Islamic culture”, posing a threat to British values.
Craig Considine, a lecturer in sociology at Rice University in Texas, argues in his study that it is simplistic to overlook the role that race plays in Islamophobic hate crimes. “While Muslims are not a “race,” they are examined through a racial process that is demarcated by physical features and racial underpinnings,” he writes. The word “Islamophobia” has also been mired in controversy with some believing it to be a term coined by the Iranian government, to suppress criticism of the Islamic religion. Others claim it was invented and promoted by the Muslim Brotherhood through something called the International Institute for Islamic Thought.

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