Hawzah News Agency (London, UK)- Muslims are calling for action from the British government after a nearly 600% rise in Islamophobic hate crimes in the U.K. following last month's New Zealand terrorist attacks.
“The issue of Islamophobia isn't a body_abstract issue anymore,” said Mohamed Mahmoud, the imam of the East London Mosque.
“Certain individuals from certain parties have said before that there is a perception among the Muslim community that Islamophobia exists within certain parties,” Mahmoud told Anadolu Agency.
“It can't be the case that 3 million Muslims all falsely perceive something, and the reality is that Islamophobia has been proven to be a concerted effort, a campaign not of merely inciting hatred but of inciting violence and encouraging it against Muslims in the U.K., in Europe and as far as New Zealand.”
Mahmoud said the community is worried that there will be copycat attacks following last month’s attacks on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, killing 51 worshippers and wounding dozens more.
“We ask God that obviously nothing on that scale occurs anywhere else in the world, let alone here in the U.K.”
Mahmoud said the first thing the government must do is recognize that Islamophobia is not a minor issue but a major one.
“It's a major issue that affects the security of over 3 million Muslims here in the U.K., and it affects the very fabric of society in the U.K.,” he said.
He said another thing to be done is providing sufficient funding to safeguard the Muslim community in the U.K.
“Not because they're unable to protect themselves, but because the authorities … it's in their hands to protect those whom they govern,” he said.
Stamping out Islamophobia
He said another thing that must be done is to stamp out Islamophobia in any party and not allow a platform for it where it is normalized and becomes mainstream to the extent that it is an acceptable discussion to have, where in fact it is not an issue of legitimate concern or grievance.
Mahmoud said Islamophobia is not a complaint about the conduct of a few people but a campaign to legitimize the murder of people who are viewed as non-human, which seemed to be the case in Christchurch, where even women and children were killed without any sympathy or regard for human life and its sanctity.
He said these expressions of hate and campaigns to dehumanize a group of people cannot be accepted by any society or community anywhere in the world.
“It's not asking for much. It's not asking for special treatment. It's a demand to be equated with every other group and with all other peoples in this country and globally.”
Rising anti-Muslim hatred
Abdullah Faliq, head of research at the Cordoba Foundation, said Islamophobia and anti-Muslim hatred are rising across Europe.
“We saw recently what happened in New Zealand, and following that, there were attacks on mosques even in this country, in Birmingham.
Faliq said the government has a role, and that role is to empower Muslim communities and also to seek out the root cause of the problem. He said that right now, white supremacist attacks and racism are on the rise, and that has been ignored until very recently.
“So what happened in New Zealand is a wake-up call. We feel the government can work with the community, the Muslim community, the wider community to deal with this issue,” he said.
“We did not expect the scale of the attack in New Zealand. We knew there is Islamophobia, there are attacks, but the scale of New Zealand was really a shock. It's a massacre, to be honest.”
Faliq said there is fear in the Muslim community.
“But we mustn't let this fear control our lives. We mustn't let this fear make us become isolated. We must go better our lives, go to the masjid [mosque] more, engage with people more. But it needs to be addressed.”
Between March 15 – the day of the terrorist attacks in Christchurch – and March 21, Muslims were threatened with direct reference to the horrific attack in 85 of the 95 recorded anti-Muslim incidents. The incidents targeting Muslims in the U.K. included verbal and physical abuse as well as vandalism.
Since the Christchurch attacks, six mosques were attacked by thugs using sledgehammers in Birmingham, and scores of Muslim men and women were targets of abuse on the streets of London. An Islamic school was also targeted in Newcastle, and the perpetrators broke windows and damaged some copies of the Quran.