Two pigs’ heads were dumped outside a Muslim school in Blackburn in the same week as a similar vulgar act was committed near some graffiti in West London. More and more, Islamophobes seem to believe that this malicious act is the best way to anger Muslims and show them that they are not welcome.
But our society has normalised these uninformed attitudes about Islam: more than half of Britons (56%) regard Islam as a threat to the UK. Some might say that this attitude relates only to the religion and is not about Muslims per se. However, attitudes to Muslims are no better: 37% would support policies to reduce the number of Muslims in the UK, and 31% of young children think Muslims are taking over England.
It’s not just attitudes: British Muslim children have been feeling the backlash in bullying and abuse post-Paris attacks; job discrimination against Muslims is rampant; and hate crimes against Muslims have soared by 70% in the past year, according to the police in spite of significant under-reporting.
On the one hand the message of forgiveness and care for the other in the face of discrimination is important. When the EDL protested outside a mosque in York, the Muslim congregation invited them in for tea and biscuits and played a game of football with them; and when four men threw a pig’s head into a mosque in Blackpool, the Imam pleaded with the Judge to be lenient.
Muslim communities are out there working for the common good and to build a stronger, more cohesive society: whether it is helping the flood victims in Cumbria; handing out roses to promote peace in Luton; giving homeless people Christmas presents; or arranging to go to the local church for Midnight Mass for the 7th year in a row.
But such positivity only goes so far. When more and more Muslim children are being referred to counter-terrorism as part of the Prevent duty in schools; when going on a holiday to Disneyland becomes problematic as more and more British Muslim families are denied entry to the US; and when Islamophobia has reached socially acceptability – it is normal life that is becoming difficult for more and more British Muslims.
We need to work together to pressure this government into acting: no longer should its inaction be acceptable, as Chris Allen and Matthew Goodwin have highlighted as they resigned from the working group on anti-Muslim hatred due to the lack of support from the government.
Above all, we cannot let the far-right extremists win by letting them strike fear into the hearts of all. Whilst we work hard together to tackle Islamophobia, we must also continue going about our normal business, keep calm and carry on – that is the British way.