‘There is a massive paranoia’: UK Muslims on life after Paris

Omar Raza was walking near his home in Glasgow’s south side when he was confronted by three men hurling racist abuse, calling him a “fucking Paki” and accusing him of funding Islamic State.

“It was three against one, so I tried to defuse the situation and walk past them. But I was suddenly attacked from behind and put in a head lock.” Raza was kicked to the ground and the bag he was carrying upturned and its contents strewn across the pavement, before his attackers ran off.

He has been unimpressed by media coverage of the Paris attacks. “The destruction in Paris was awful but unfortunately the media has created a brand of what is safe to support, so they romanticise a city like Paris, but with Syria or Palestine there are darker aspects that people don’t want to embrace.

“On social media it’s about how you project who you support. People are doing that by very hollow means like changing their photo to a flag.”

Mohammed Nawaz Ali, 23, a Glasgow grocer, agreed: “On the news apps, you see the first six or seven stories are on Paris, someone who survived, someone who was caught, but there’s a lot happening in other countries, the same number of deaths every single day.”

Leaving the mosque after prayers, he reflected a similar sense of frustration. “We’ve not done anything but now Muslims are being attacked. There was the fire at the mosque in Bishopbriggs [in east Dunbartonshire] and there was something near here. It’s serious.”

The Edinburgh-based campaigner, Talat Yaqoob, echoed this sense of disproportion: “Because I’m Muslim, I feel that I have to condemn quickly, and on behalf of an entire community. No other religious group has that asked of them.”

After reports of an incident in London when a woman wearing a hijab was allegedly pushed towards an oncoming tube train, Yaqoob, 30, said Muslim women were tagging her on Facebook telling her to be careful in public. “It’s interesting to see the creation of fear and how it travels,” she said. “The same thing happens every time there’s a terrorist attack.”

“For the last 15 years we’ve been condemning attacks, we’ve been saying Islam is a religion of peace, Islam is this, Islam is that, but I’ve just come to the point where I don’t even bother making a status [update] about it. It’s like, what is the point? You should know where I stand.”

Jack Khan, a teacher from south London, said most incidences of anti-Muslim prejudice he faced came through Facebook. Hostility was rarely direct, and often came from people he would otherwise regard as friends. “They forget that you’re a Muslim when they post things that are quite Islamophobic like ‘no more Muslims in this country’, ‘close down mosques’,” he said.

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