News Analysis |
A letter encouraging indiscriminate attacks and abuse against Muslims was circulated across various cities in the United Kingdom. Citizens in London, in Yorkshire, Leicester and other cities have reported having seen or received the letter. The pamphlet promises a celebration of ‘Punish a Muslim Day’ on April the 3rd.
The letter promises rewards for the different kinds of attacks against Muslims, after hurling accusations such as ‘They [Muslims] have hurt you. They have made your loved ones suffer. They have caused you pain. What are you going to do about it?’ The rewards promised include 10 points for verbally abusing a Muslim, 25 points for pulling the headscarf off a Muslim woman, 50 points for throwing acid onto the face of a Muslim, 1000 points for bombing a mosque and 2500 points for nuking Mecca.
Although anti-Muslim bigotry has been steadily rising in the UK for some time now, this hate filled pamphlet is the first of its kind. Previously, the British community has witnessed anti-Muslim graffiti, ‘protest marches’ held by far-right groups in the UK such as the English Defense League and rallies held by politicians who have said in speeches that Islam is the most retrograde force in the world.
The letter for this campaign begins with the following words: They have loved you. They have made you so many curries and kebabs. They have created so much love between people. How will you repay them?
Islamophobia, or an irrational fear of Islam and/or Muslims, has been on the rise for a number of years not just in the United Kingdom but across the Western World. Apart from being targeted by racial epithets such as ‘Paki’, Muslims are also barred from a number of jobs. According to research conducted by the Office for National Statistics, Muslim men are 76% less likely than their white Christian counterparts to get employed.
The BBC also investigated and found that candidates with Muslim sounding names are less likely to be called for interviews as compared with candidates having non-Muslim names. Barriers to employment naturally lead socio-economic inequalities. According to a report by the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), 46% of British Muslims live in 10% of the most deprived districts in England while only 1.7% lives in the least deprived ones.
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Barrister Nabila Mallick, of London’s No5 Chambers, said, “There’s a perception of Muslim employees being considered disloyal, political … fundamentalist.” There was a 65% increase against Muslims in London in 2014. Figures released by the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, showed that there has been a five-fold increase of attacks against Muslims after the London Bridge attacks. Tell Mama, a UK-based national project that tracks hate-crimes against Muslims said that 141 hate crimes were recorded against Muslims after the Manchester attack i.e. a rise of 500% compared with a daily average of 25.
These are not random hate crimes. There seems to be a purpose behind them. The aim seems to be to make life as difficult as possible for Muslims living in the UK so that more Muslims don’t think of coming there. There is widespread opposition to Muslim immigration in the Britain. A survey conducted by the Chatham House Royal Institute of International Affairs revealed that 47% of British citizens are opposed to further Muslim immigration. Furthermore, 55% of Britons believe that there is a fundamental clash between Islam and British society, according to a YouGov poll.
Victoria Atkins, an MP serving at the Home Office minister said that that government condemned the contents of the letter as ‘clearly abhorrent with no place in decent society.’ Police are investigating the hate-filled leaflet and have asked citizens to report any leads they might have.
More than 10,000 people from 10 different European countries were surveyed in the Chatham House poll and, on average, 55% of Europeans agreed with the statement that ‘all further immigration mainly from Muslim countries should be stopped.’ Only one in five respondents felt that Muslim immigration should continue. In other words, the majority of Europeans in general and nearly half of Britons in particular don’t want another Muslim in their country.
According the MCB report, there are nearly 2.7 million Muslims in the United Kingdom who comprise 4.8% of UK’s population. Muslims had been coming to Britain as subjects of the Crown during the colonial era, mostly for higher studies. After the end of World War 2, they came as temporary guest workers for post-war reconstruction. Emigration to England and Scotland in particular continued through university scholarships promoted by the government of UK.
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More recently, the Labour government at the end of the millennium introduced much more relaxed immigration policies and subsequent governments haven’t really pushed for restricting the flow of immigration. Resultantly, in 2017, net migration into the United Kingdom was 244,000, the majority of which was from Muslim countries. What explains these attitudes towards Muslims and the motivation behind the ‘Punish a Muslim Day’ pamphlet? It’s probably part-racism and part-religious bigotry.
Although there have been increasing numbers of white converts to Islam, most of the Muslim immigrants are from the middle-east, South Asia or North Africa and tend to have a darker shade of skin color. There are two possible explanations for this hatred against Muslims; one at the global level and one that is local to the United Kingdom. Globally, a shift to the right has been observed, especially in Western countries.
Tell Mama, a UK-based national project that tracks hate-crimes against Muslims said that 141 hate crimes were recorded against Muslims after the Manchester attack i.e. a rise of 500% compared with a daily average of 25.
This shift to the right has been accompanied by anti-globalization attitudes, with far-right political parties often seizing the narrative. The 2008 economic crash, anemic growth in the EU (2% or lower), the Euro zone crisis and persistent terrorist attacks all led to a fundamental increase in anti-establishment sentiments. These sentiments were tapped into by previously marginal right-wing groups and the political establishment was seen to be failing in addressing the people’s problems.
These political parties often scapegoat Muslims as the source of all these problems. For example, the British National Party (BNP) in Britain argues that Muslims are a burden on the taxpayer since they can’t find employment. The narrative of BNP is that Muslims are not only a burden on national exchequers for European countries; they are also collectively responsible for terror attacks.
The other, more local, explanation for anti-Muslim sentiments goes as follows: there has always been latent Islamophobia in British society, which goes back to well before the 20th century. Winston Churchill, who is recognized as one the greatest leaders in over a thousand years of British history, said that the final extinction of slavery must be delayed ‘until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power among men.’
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Nearly 50 years after Churchill said these words, Enoch Powell, a British politician belonging to the Conservative Party, made an infamous speech. In that speech, Powell warned of the ‘rivers of blood’ that he foresaw if immigration from Commonwealth countries continues. He argued that as the number of immigrants continued, they would consolidate their numbers, agitate and campaign against their fellow citizens and overawe and dominate the rest. The long history of race riots in Britain in the 1960s and 1980s seem to confirm the fact that there was always some opposition to the presence of Muslims in UK.
The government of Britain has condemned the ‘Punish a Muslim Day’ hate mail being sent to people all over UK. Victoria Atkins, an MP serving at the Home Office minister said that that government condemned the contents of the letter as ‘clearly abhorrent with no place in decent society.’ Police are investigating the hate-filled leaflet and have asked citizens to report any leads they might have. “Police are investigating a number of reports of potentially malicious communications sent to individuals in the Bradford area,” a spokesman for the West Yorkshire police said. Furthermore, the Metropolitan Police in London have said that they take incidents of religious hatred very seriously.
In a delightful turn of events, in what is perhaps the only good news in this otherwise disturbing story, a ‘Love a Muslim Day’ campaign has also been launched as a response to the ‘Hate a Muslim Day’ letter. The letter for this campaign begins with the following words: They have loved you. They have made you so many curries and kebabs. They have created so much love between people. How will you repay them?