The Growing Tide of Islamophobia

    The Growing Tide of Islamophobia  

    So the Nationality and Borders Bill is currently in the House of Lords and Home Secretary Priti Patel hopes that it will slow the flow of refugees from France which increased dramatically in 2021.

    Something needs to be done. 27 poor people died when their dinghy capsized in rough seas in November, but the following day the people traffickers were back in business and more frightened refugees took their lives in their hands. The Home Office response seems to be to shut the borders as fast as possible with scant regard to the safety of anyone, while social media is awash with propaganda focussing on extremist terrorism…and that helps no-one either.

    Here in the UK we live on a diverse, multi-cultural land and pride ourselves on our sense of fairness and desire to help those who are most in need but, in a world now engulfed by a tide of Islamophobia we can’t deny we are part of the problem…ask anyone at Yorkshire County Cricket Club!

    In China, the Uighur Muslims have fought for independence, on and off for three centuries, but those dreams came to an end when the region was absorbed under Communist China in 1949. Following the 2008 Beijing Olympics there was a period of heightened tension and large scale rioting broke out in 2009 resulting in 200 deaths and, since that year, the persecution of Muslims in China has intensified, including the 2014 banning of the holy fast of Ramadam in government departments, including medical staff. And since then the government moved to ban Muslims from naming their children names such as Muhammed, which the authorities deem to be extremist.

    Meanwhile, over in India police have recently begun an investigation into an app which hosted pictures of Muslim women for a fake auction, shortly after prominent Hindus in the country allegedly called for violence against Muslims. There is a sense that entrenched Islamophobia is part of the cultural fabric of India where hostility against Muslims is on the increase.

    Closer to home, across the Channel, the French presidential election, set for April, is shrouded by claims from extreme right campaigners that Islam is a threat to the nation’s identity. Of course the French are ferociously proud of their culture but high profile politicians, Marine Le Pen of the National Rally and anti-Islam leader Eric Zemmour do little to represent the sane majority in France. The country’s mantra ‘vive la difference’ is a celebration of differences between people and has nothing in common with the suspicion and fear that fuels Islamophopia.

    So back to the UK. The Nationality and Borders Bill has stated objectives of supporting those in need of Asylum while deterring illegal entry into the UK by trafficking networks and then, tellingly, to remove from the UK those with no right to be here. Depending on who you ask ‘those with no right to be here’ might include any one of us and the interpretation of the narrative may well lead to rising xenophobia in certain circles. The UK government hasn’t exactly covered itself in glory recently when deciding who has a right to be here, catastrophically making a total hash of the Windrush Generation’s rights.

    The Bill is working its way through parliament as we speak, and the United Nations has criticised the content, saying the citizenship stripping powers are likely to be discriminatory because of a disproportionate impact on Muslim communities. And the plans to process refugees offshore are inhumane at best. These people are willing to risk their lives to cross the Channel and some will be left isolated on the continent, maybe separated from family.

    Maybe here in the UK we can do little to affect what happens around the world, but we can, just as in the efforts to slow climate change, do our bit and lead the way for others. If we really are as inclusive and tolerant as we believe (or hope) then Islamophobia must be banished from the mainstream and dumped in the cesspit of extremism.

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