3.8.05

31

CNN reports that the frequency of islamophobic hate-crimes in London has increased by 600% since the July 7 bombings:

"Scotland Yard figures showed there were 269 such incidents reported since the bombings, compared to only 40 in the same three-and-a-half week period last year.

In the immediate three-day aftermath of the attacks there were 68 faith hate crimes in the capital. There were none in the same period 12 months ago."


More disturbing still is the fact that British Muslims are facing harassment and assault from both sides of the law. The illegitimate "stop-and-search" of Muslims based on racial profiling has been criticized by Muslim and anti-racist communities since it first started happening, shortly after September 11: In July 2004, the Islamic Affairs Central Network reported that

"Today's Home Office figures revealing a huge 302% increase in the number of Asians who were stopped and searched by the police in 2002/2003 serve to confirm the impression that since 9/11 institutionalised racism in the police force has gradually been morphing into an institutionalised Islamophobia.

The figures also revealed that the police had an arrest rate of only 13% of those stopped and searched. Regrettably though, neither figures were provided for the number of those that went on to be actually charged or convicted of any offence nor did the figures indicate the religious affiliation of those involved. The MCB calls upon the Home Office to urgently make good this unacceptable deficiency in the interest of greater transparency"


In the aftermath of the bombings, and of the murder of Jean Charles de Menezes, the Home Office and London police have responded with continued opacity, not greater transparency, of its policing practices. Both administrations continus to officially deny the occurance of racial profiling in "stop-and-search" practices and claim that Muslims are not being targetted in the investigation into the July 7 terrorist attacks. A representative of the Home Office, meeting with the Muslim community, insisted that "counter-terrorism powers are not targeting any community in particular but are targeting terrorists," according to the BBC. Reportedly, "she also opposed racial profiling, saying stop and searches should be based on good intelligence, not just skin colour" (emphasis mine). But in a political context where Muslims are overdetermined as "terrorists," and as racialized people are criminalized, such disclaimers ring hollow.

And so, Muslim leaders are urging Muslim women who wear the hijab to unveil, for their own safety. Dr Zaki Badawi, who heads the Muslim College in London and acts as chair of the Council of Mosques and Imams was quoted by the BBC advising Muslim women to remove this conspicuous sign of Muslim-ness so as to avoid harassment and attack:

"In the present tense situation, with the rise of attacks on Muslims, we advise Muslim women who fear being attacked physically or verbally to remove their hijab so as not to be identified by those hostile to Muslims...A woman wearing the hijab...could suffer aggression from irresponsible elements. Therefore, she ought not to wear it. Dress is meant to protect from harm, not to invite it."

Similar suggestions were made to North American Muslims after September 11. I recall being present at one community meeting during which some Muslim women responded with indignation at this - admittedly pragmatic - advice. In a society that touts itself as multicultural (as both Canadian and British societies now do), assimilation shouldn't be the price one pays for personal safety. And so, feminists on my university campus, at the time, organized a solidarity action with Muslim women being targetted for wearing the hijab, during which all women (including non-Muslims women and Muslim women who did not normally veil) veiled themselves. The point is that the non-Muslim anti-racist community needs to organize against Islamophobic attacks (institutional and individual), instead of allowing the privatization of Muslims' safety.

2 Comments:

Blogger a.c. said...

Check out Victor Serge's latest entry, "Why do they Hate Us?" in his blog and your little dog too. Here's an excerpt to pique your interest:

"The London bombings have claimed another victim: multiculturalism. According to British Tory leadership hopeful David Davis, multiculturalism is responsible for "encouraging distinctive identities [rather] than... promoting common values of nationhood." The goal of integration, he said, is to foster "tolerance and respect for the British way of life."

[...]

Let's try some analysis, as if the people being talked about - Muslims - actually had an opinion. The sociology prof got close to providing a reason - sorry, 'justifying terror' - when he said, "A lot of Muslim youth tell me, "They bomb us in Iraq, so why can't we bomb here?" I know, moral equivalency, what a crazy idea. The 'British way of life' includes mass murder of Iraqi civilians, as does the U.S. 'example'. Could the fact that the Muslim world has been attacked & invaded for close to a century, have anything to do with someone trying to defend it? Could Iraq being bombed constantly for the past 10 years, provoke angry Muslims to do exactly the same thing in London?"


As I told him, I think that Victor's analysis -- which deals with the role of Anglo-American foreign policy in alienating Muslims living in the West -- and mine -- which discusses domestic factors -- form nice companion pieces. Great minds blog alike.

9:13 PM  
Blogger Victor Serge said...

And I wanted to argue :-) Thanks A.C. I agree, in the context of a police anti-terror campaign, any further measures given to the state will only result in more Islamophobic attacks, official and non-official. When the Tories start cribbing notes from the BNP, it shows how deep their commitment to 'tolerance' (there's a loaded word!) was in the first place.

It's also good you mention the key factor: organization. Until Muslims, progressives, socialists, anyone whose safety & freedom is at stake from anti-terror hyperbole get together and fight back, this kind of bullshit will continue.

12:31 AM  

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