Qari Asim MBE: Anti-Muslim hatred is a victory for terrorism

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I AM absolutely repulsed every time terrorists commit a massacre and cause carnage.

The fact that the perpetrators of the Paris and other attacks espouse rhetoric linking their senseless murders to Islam disgusts me even further.

I totally understand that there is anger and fear amongst some people in Britain regarding what the terrorists did in the French capital and what carnage they could potentially cause on our soil. Following the Paris attacks, some people are thinking twice before visiting crowded places because of this fear. But levelling hatred towards ordinary Muslims – who are anti-IS – is not the answer.

There has been a 300 per cent rise in reports of attacks against Muslims since the devastating events of Paris according to Tell-Mama, an organisation which records incidents of verbal and physical attacks on Muslims and mosques in the UK. A similar trend emerged in the aftermath of the murder of Lee Rigby in Woolwich.

Considering Muslims to be the enemy within or a fifth column, allowing the term “Muslim” to become synonymous with “extremist” and “potential terrorist”, is playing to the tune of Daesh (the so-called Islamic State).

Division, hatred and committing violence towards each other is central to their ideology. Tolerance is one of the most fundamental of British values. We must not compromise our British values, on the provocation of those who want to destroy civilisation.

For decades, anti-Muslim sentiments, also known as Islamophobia, have been experienced by Muslims. In a study published last month, the Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC) noted that six out of 10 Muslims in Britain surveyed said they had seen Islamophobia directed at someone else, up from four in 10 when the survey was first conducted in 2010.

Since the Paris attacks, 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 violence. British Muslim women have been pushed while walking on the streets, called “Isis bitches”, “Muslim monkey” or “ninja”. 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.

A pregnant Muslim woman was racially abused by a drunk man who branded her a “terrorist” in a 15 minute tirade on a London bus while passengers looked on without intervening. In Fife, a man and a woman were violently assaulted outside their take-away; the perpetrators were berating them over the Paris atrocities.

In many instances, the public do not seem to be intervening because they did not find the behaviour of the perpetrators unacceptable, or because the assailants are so aggressive and hostile that people fear harm.

If this is the case, one can only imagine how 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. Britain is a very tolerant society and thankfully these kinds of attacks are relatively rare. But the current rise in such abuse is alarming. Any kind of bigotry against a particular community must not be tolerated. Anti-Muslim prejudice is a matter for everyone who cares about Britain being a tolerant and fair society.

In the meantime, Muslims need to stay calm, vigilant, and watchful. I urge anyone who experiences physical or verbal abuse to report such incidents to the police.

British Muslims commended the Prime Minister’s announcement in October that the Government would bring the recording process for religious hate crimes against Muslims in line with those against the Jewish community, which have been recorded separately for some time.

It does not need to be said that the potential consequences of the demonisation of an entire community, hostility, racism and social division are catastrophic.

As Brits, we all need to display a dynamic spirit of open-mindedness, co-operation and tolerance.

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.

There should be no place in Britain for any kind of prejudice and hatred. To allow otherwise is to hand victory to the terrorists.

Qari Asim MBE is an imam at Makkah Mosque in Leeds.