Every morning, I sit with my iPad and a cup of coffee to scroll through Twitter and read the news. Lately, I have come across an abundance of articles about mosques being torn down, Muslims being cursed and all-around hateful words being slung back and forth. It’s frightening to think about how we’re viewed with such a narrow lens in such an increasingly broad-minded place.
Growing up in the UAE, I had never really taken note of Islamophobia, but ever since I moved to Britain, I began looking at myself as an “other” – something I never thought I would be. These feelings have since subsided, but the issue of Muslims being viewed as outsiders still exists here. Having been witness to this, I’ve spent my senior project researching and writing about the rapid rise of Islamophobia in Britain.
I came upon a particularly tragic story when I spoke to a mother of five, who was on her way home from university one evening in East London; she was yelled at and then spat at. She had not provoked the man, she had not even given him a cruel glance – no, her only crime was that she deigned to wear a niqab (face veil) on the tube home from a busy day of classes.
Another young woman was coming out of her relative’s home one afternoon and was screamed at by a man passing by, who told her to leave the country, stating she was “Osama bin Laden’s niece”. This is something she was not aware of – and frankly, it was not even close to being true; however, she did not let anger overtake her, rather was patient and gave this man the benefit of doubt.
With Muslims comprising less than 5% of the UK population, it is naturally almost impossible for Muslims and non-Muslims to have a deep enough level of interaction that they understand each other’s nuances. The issue is that there is a major lack of communication between different faith groups and there is a sectioning off of different religions into their own groups.
Naturally, the media is what people turn to for information about what they do not know and they constantly face negative images of Muslim people that are not balanced and are often not given much context. The media portrays Muslim people in general as violent terrorists or the passive, abused victim. There is seldom the portrayal of the normal, everyday Muslim – of those that go to work, that are students, that raise families, that cheer on their football teams, that are even fashion bloggers.
Speaking to the co-founder of the Islamic Human Rights Commission, Arzu Merali, I gathered that the problem is that those who are afraid of Islam or Muslim people often do not know any better. Because there is a lack of communication between the various faith groups, there is a lack of knowledge and therefore people turn to existing stereotypes to understand Muslims. The media has the responsibility of playing to these easy stereotypes or critically challenging them. The media is incredibly powerful and has come together to fight issues such as racism and homophobia, but is not doing as much to tackle the equally real issue of Islamophobia that is sweeping across Europe and the rest of the world.
In a world with more and more methods of communication, there seems to be a serious lack of it. Let’s hope that the world can come together to tackle all of this negativity and hatred on both sides of the fence and counteract it with the only natural things we all have an abundance of – the ability to love and think.
Take a look at this Huffington Post article to know how to combat Islamophobia.
Are you a Muslim living in a non-Muslim country? Share your experiences with us in the comments below.
Featured Image Source: theguardian.com