There is a growing and undeniable problem festering in the roots of British society. Those of us that deny it exists are dangerously burying their heads in the sand and allowing it to flourish unchallenged. History has repeatedly shown us what that leads to. It needs to be tackled head on before the situation becomes irrevocable.
Let’s not try and hide behind semantics, Islamophobia is a real phenomenon and it is most definitely a form of racism. It is not only the fear, hatred of, or prejudice against the Islamic religion but of Muslims as a whole.
According to the UK Census of 2011, Muslims in the UK comprise of 38% Pakistani, 15% Bangladeshi, 14% Other Asian, 10% Black and 7% Arab and 4% Mixed. That is overall 88% of UK Muslims that come from a BAME background and in fact the majority (over 60%) of all people categorised as BAME in the UK are Muslim. Hence there is some basis to suppose that nearly all anti-Muslim sentiment is racist and the majority of all racism in the UK is Islamophobic.
Analysis based on the same 2011 census states that Muslims in the UK face poor standards of housing, poorer levels of education and are more vulnerable to long-term illness. It also states that Muslims in the UK had the highest rate of unemployment, the poorest health, the most disability and fewest educational qualifications among religious groups.
Home Office figures published in November 2017 show that the number of racially or religiously aggravated offences recorded by 38 Police forces rose from the standard 100-125 reported offences per fortnight to nearly double that level in the weeks following both the EU referendum result in June 2016 and the Manchester Arena suicide bombing in May 2017, reaching a peak of 240 reported offences in the week after the Finsbury Park Mosque attack a year ago.
The Metropolitan Police figures from May 2017 - May 2018 back this up with the overwhelming majority of religious hate crimes perpetrated in London being against Muslims. This was up by 32% to the same period last year while in comparison religious hate crime in general only went up by 20% and Anti-Semitic hate crime was actually down by 4.8%. Sadly but predictably, most of these Islamophobic hate crimes target the easily identifiable and most vulnerable members of the community - namely women in hijab or niqaab, elderly men and children.
Every anti-Muslim or anti-Islamic comment online or offline, especially from politicians and people in power, reinforces Muslim extremism and is used to confirm their false narrative that all native British people hate Muslims. This inevitably encourages them into committing deplorable violent actions which are then followed by retaliatory violence from far-right extremists leading to a cycle of proliferation, which ultimately fulfils the warped, divisive objectives of both these polarised set of extremists.
Extreme and inflammatory comments lead to equally extreme and inflammatory responses, which result not only in drowning out the moderate voices of the silent majority but to radicalise those members of society susceptible to conversion.
Respectful discourse is not only to be encouraged but is the only credible way to counter the ideology and aims of the extremists.
In this age of 'Internet keyboard warriors', where people feel empowered to spew their opinions without regards to the consequences, it is vital for all people to be respectful when expressing their views online or any other forms of media. Before posting a comment online or speaking to a member of any race ot religion, it is also important to check the validity of what you are about to say from many unbiased sources. Otherwise what is stated is simply hate speech and very damaging to community cohesion.
Every prejudicial comment and action is fuel on the fire of extremism, which if not self- regulated will only worsen the situation and keep the cycle of hate spinning out of control.
There are currently over 3 million Muslims in the UK, which is 5% of the population. This will most likely double over the next couple of decades. So like it or not, Muslims will continue to form the fabric of British society. If both Islamophobia and Muslim extremism are not eradicated then we all face an uncertain and perhaps dystopian future.