In the past few years, negative perceptions about Islam flourished in Europe. European countries have suffered epidemic that plagued their citizens’ mentality, about misunderstandings on interpreting Islam. This also happens in England, a country which is currently struggling to resolve the Brexit policy debate. In the UK, in where I have been living over the past year, the Islamophobia has increased.
Actually, hatred towards Muslims, or at least an attack on Muslims in Britain, is not coming out of nothing. We must look at this sentiment closely in the context of European and Islamic relations for centuries, especially if we looking back to the history of the Crusades that sparks negative perceptions among European toward Muslims.
However, hatred towards religious group does not lead to suffer Muslim community. Jews community in England also experiences the same, in form of assault and humiliation in the public sphere, which tends to be increasing. Jewish symbols are often subject to blasphemy and vandalism.
The annual report released by ‘Tell Mama’ monitoring group reported that attacks on Islamophobia has increased recently. In 2017, 1,201 reports of attacks were recorded, which increased 26% from the previous year. ‘Tell Mama’ also reported that anti-Muslim incidents has increased from 642 cases in 2016 to 839 cases in 2017.
A number of bombing incidents, especially at the Manchester Arena in 2017, carried out by a Muslim, also triggered hatred towards Muslims. The aftermath of such incidents, which resulted in 23 deaths, leads to increasing number of hatred and attacks toward Muslim groups.
Massive use of social media among the younger generation also contributes in circulating sentiment of Islamophobia. Tell Mama group reported this deteriorating condition, how issues of hatred towards the Muslim community were originated by misunderstanding as well as the interests of right-wing political groups to pump up the tension of hatred. The contestation of Brexit issue in recent years has been flooding social media that is accessed by the young generation of Britain.
On the other hand, I see how the Islamic communities openly grow in various regions, bringing us good news. A number of Muslim communities are growing in cities across England, with various faces, school of thoughts, and attributes. Mostly, the blossoming Muslim communities are coming from immigrants. Like from India, Pakistan, Turkey and some Middle East countries.
Based on my conversation with some Indian descent Muslims, they are mostly the second or the third generation born in England. Their parents or grandparents migrated to England, to pursue their studies or seeking decent jobs.
Those England-born Muslims have better rights and access, especially relate to citizenship, healthcare, taxes, and access to education. I found similiar stories from Pakistani descent Muslims. Moreover, India and Pakistan are among commonwealth countries, former British colonies, whose citizens are benefited visa entry to the United Kingdom region.
Imran Awan, associate professor of criminology at Birmingham City University, revealed that the narrative of hatred and Islamophobia must be confronted with specific strategies through education.
“We need to look at the grassroots of the problem, such as the social deprivation in society. A lot of it, can you deal with through education especially at a younger age. The element seems to be missed,” said Awan (Guardian, July 20, 2018).
Imran Awan invites us all, to dig down deeper to the root of the problem. According to Awan, public education is a working strategy to counter misunderstanding on Islam that resulted Islamophobia.
The education never been an instant and requires never ending process. This will take long process but may create a comprehensive perspective on seeing things. The narrative of hatred that manifests itself on issues of Islamophobia and antisemitism, must be anticipated by providing complete information about religion, including the surrounding good values, that coming from its own adherents.
Therefore, as part of Muslim community, we need to apply a religious model that presents beauty, offers love and shows mercy for all humanbeing. Such good values may promote Islam as religion that spreads grace to the universe, rahmatan lil-alamin.
Original post by Munawwir Aziz, a Researcher, currently studying for his PhD in Southampton, England.