The Day Britain Voted Out Of Europe
London, 23 June 2016.
Of course I voted. But naively, I was never hugely concerned about the EU referendum–a historic event that took place on June 23, 2016 that allowed the entire United Kingdom to vote on whether we should remain in the European Union.
I was never concerned because I never thought we’d leave.
The history of the European Union began in the 1950s after the devastation of the Second World War. A collective of nations came together with the hope that ultimately, unity could prevent bloodshed.
Extremist nationalism had torn our continent to shreds.
The United Kingdom joined founding countries Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, The Netherlands and Italy in 1973, in what was then known as the European Economic Community. It is now made up of 28 countries. Or, at least it was before this morning.
This morning, the result on our referendum came in. After 43 years, we’re out.
It’s been a scary era. For me, this era began on September 12, 2001. The rise of extremist nationalism began, and is continuing to rise to heights I never thought were possible.
The media portrayal of immigrants and the demonizing of Muslims has been an uncomfortably huge factor in this. It is a scary time.
Muslim women often bear the brunt of the anger.
Recently, a Muslim woman was pushed off a train platform and onto the tracks. One was punched in the street and knocked out. We are getting abused on public transport.
Because of course, a right-wing bigoted extremist would not even try to verbally or physically abuse a grown man with a beard. It always falls on us women. And who is here to protect us?
It was only in February 2016 that the government wanted to scrap our Human Rights Act.
This disconnection from the Union makes not just Muslim women, but Muslim Brits, feel more alone now more than ever. All alone on this island to which we will never belong, despite being born here, despite our contributions, despite our insistence that we too can live by “British Values.”
Like the US election, the referendum sparked a wave of TV debates, endless newspaper columns, and millions of opinions–some balanced, many certainly not–on social media. Both sides attempted to spark fear in our hearts and minds.
Prime Minister David Cameron wanted us to remain in. He insisted that “ISIS would be happy” if we left, as “we’d be more vulnerable” if we left. He resigned this morning. His successor will be in place by October 2016.
UKIP (the United Kingdom Independence Party) leader Nigel Farage, who is basically the British Donald Trump, insisted we must leave to prevent our small island from being bombarded by those awful refugees–ya know, like the ones fleeing Hitler in the 1940s. He created a poster that was almost a spitting image of a Nazi poster, which was actually reported to the police out of fear of it inciting hatred.
And incite hatred they did. Labour (they’re like America’s Democrats) politician Jo Cox was fatally shot and stabbed on the street on June 16, 2016, by a man who was a champion for far-right causes. He was a member of the fascist organisation Britain First.
Of course, the media called him a “timid, mentally ill man”–-not a terrorist, which, by definition he is. Skin color and religious preference now defines what is political terrorism and what it is not.
Jo wanted better for Syrian refugees. Jo wanted unity. Jo wanted to remain in the EU. She was murdered by a man who, whilst clearly unhinged, was full of hatred for people like Jo and I. People who don’t see immigrants as the enemy. People who want harmony despite nationalities. People who aren’t extremists. Jo Cox left behind two young children. Their lives will never be the same. It is a scary time.
I have received many messages from concerned friends today. The general consensus among my Muslim friends was “No one wants us here,” “I feel so alone,” “I am scared,” “I am so uneasy,” and “Shall we move to Canada?” We feel more unwanted and alienated than ever.
The majority of us have paid taxes for as long as we have been legally able to work; we’ve integrated into society seamlessly and we speak better English than some indigenous English people, trust me on that.
But the harsh reality is that this is not the point. They will see us, see the melanin in our skin and see an immigrant. We British Muslims are witnessing a historic rise in racism.
The result of the referendum demonstrates the difference between London and the rest of the country. Whilst the majority of London voted to remain, as did Scotland and Northern Ireland, the majority outside of these areas voted to leave.
What this means for the United Kingdom is unknown. Scotland will almost certainly have another referendum to leave the UK and remain in the EU. As to what this result will mean for workers’ rights and indeed our human rights on a whole is yet to be seen.
As I write this, the British pound has fallen; it’s at a 31 year low.
I hope the people who voted out to “stop immigration” are aware of the countless implications of their actions that are now to follow.
Immigrants reportedly make up 0.05% of the population. Us brown people are not the problem.
The majority of the country voted for austerity cuts in 2010, and we damn well got them. That’s the problem. Regardless, the media has done a great job at pitting working class groups of different ethnicities against one another whilst they swan around with their bonuses in their mansions.
But back to London. Good ol’ London. I feel ever so grateful to live here. It is my haven, my multicultural metropolis. Many are left wondering how this “London vs the rest of England” scenario will pan out. The referendum result is such a shock to us Londoners, given that it was only last month, in May 2016, that London elected their first Muslim mayor, Sadiq Khan.
Khan was a campaigner for the remain movement, and has been a huge inspiration to British Muslims. He’s a reminder that we can push through and achieve a career in politics and actively make a change in society, despite the many people who want us to shut our mouths and fail. It’s just going to be a little harder now.
It is a scary time. Many of us are feeling anxious and worried for our future. But my bottom line is that I still believe in us. I have faith that although the United Kingdom is going down a dark path, we will come full circle, and equality will eventually prevail.
For the sake of my own sanity, I can’t allow myself to believe in anything else.
Written by Maryam Khan. Follow her on Twitter at @MazHalima.