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Thursday, May 16, 2024

British Muslim MP asks Muslims to make this fight against racism into a watershed moment

British Parliamentarian Mohammad Afzal Khan, the Shadow Deputy Leader of House of Commons for Labour party, explains how the protests across the United States in response to the murder of George Floyd have also highlighted institutional racism within the UK, and the dire need for Muslims to help bring about real change.

The murder of George Floyd was truly shocking. Watching footage of his arrest and death has left many feeling hurt, scared, and angry – feelings I share. My thoughts are with all those protestors across America who, in the midst of their grief, are fighting racism to build a better world.

For many, this now feels like a watershed moment in the fight against racism. However, we have seen too many other watershed moments come and go, with little tangible change, so it is now up to all of us to make sure this time is different.

Read more: US minorities taking a lead role in anti-racism efforts

Racism in the UK: outrage over US protests

I have received hundreds upon hundreds of emails from my constituents who are outraged at the events unfolding in the US. But this outrage is also accompanied by a fierce desire to address institutional racism here in the UK.

As a British Asian man, I have confronted racism my whole life. It’s hard not to feel hopeless in the face of all we are up against. But seeing people across the world standing in solidarity with protestors in the US and saying enough is enough gives me hope that real change is possible. If not now, when?

A report published by Public Health England confirms that Britons of colour are at a significantly increased risk of contracting and dying of Covid-19 compared their white counterparts. This report does little more than tell us what we already knew.

Read more: ‘Megxit’ uncovers racism in modern Britain

The findings in this report do show that socio-economic inequalities transcend colour and caste, it is affecting BAME (Black, Asian, and minority ethnic) people as a whole. It is time that we challenge anti-black narratives within our communities and truly follow the Prophet’s teachings on racism.

Teachings of Islam: responsibility of Muslims?

As a Muslim, it is important that we reflect on our own ways and fully embrace what Islam teaches us about racism and discrimination.

Too often, anti-blackness is seen as a ‘Western problem’. But to dismiss it as such is not only ignorant, it is dangerous. The history of anti-blackness and colourism in the Muslim community is real and must be addressed. Racism divides people into ‘us’ and ‘them,’ based one’s colour and caste.

As the Black Lives Matter protests enter their third week, the silence of our Government is deafening. However, the Muslim community has a moral obligation to speak in defence of human rights, no matter where in the world they are challenged.

Read more: Norway to distribute 10,000 translated Qurans to fight Racism

The Muslim Council of Britain said it stands in solidarity with anti-racism and police brutality protesters in the US, UK and beyond, pledging to address anti-Black racism within Muslim communities.

As a Muslim, I know full well that Islam teaches us tolerance, justice and equality. Racism in any form is considered unacceptable and wrong. Muslims believe that all people share in common humanity. They believe that racism, whether as prejudice or discrimination, undermines the dignity of people.

The history of Islam underscores this.

History of Islam: racism condemned, tolerance fostered

Islam first spread throughout the Middle East absorbing different nationalities, customs, classes and religions. Later, it spread through Asia, India, Africa and the Balkans. Prejudice and discrimination were not common in Muslim societies due to the diversity of their inhabitants. This tradition of tolerance is therefore reflected in the teachings of Islam.

Read more: How Sajid Javid beat racism to become minister in-charge of Brexit

The Prophet outlined in his last sermon that, “All mankind is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over a black, nor a black has any superiority over a white- except by piety and good action”.

However, prejudice and discrimination do exist in the Muslim world. There is no doubt that the foundation of Islam condemns racism, but what good is it to recite the Quran or the Prophet’s sayings, without practising them?

As Muslims, we should know that our fight for justice is meaningless if it does not call for an end to oppression for people of all faiths and races.

Mohammad Afzal Khan is a British Parliamentarian, born in Jhelum, Pakistan. He is a Labour party politician, elected as an MP from Manchester in 2017 and was re-elected in 2019. He is currently the Shadow Deputy Leader of House of Commons. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.