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Islamophobia Awareness Month: The Side of November We Ignore

November is Native American Heritage month — and Islamophobia Awareness Month in the UK. It’s a month when we should be doubling down on calling out the discrimination that Muslims face in the UK, as well as deconstructing the negative stereotypes about the Muslim communities and Islam — which many aren’t even made aware of until today.

For British Muslims, November is a reminder of their daily struggles as Muslims. It’s a reminder for them that no matter how much they spoke about Islamophobia in their society, they won’t be able to get their basic human right to peacefully co-exist in the name of “free speech.”

What Is Islamophobia Awareness Month (IAM)?

Islamophobia Awareness Month (IAM) is a month-long campaign, co-founded in 2012 by MEND with other British organizations, that challenges the negative stereotypes about Islam and Muslims, as well as raises awareness about the surge of Islamophobia in their society. 

In fact, 57 percent of Conservative Party members in the UK had a negative attitude towards Muslims, and 47 percent of them believe that Islam is “a threat to the British way of life,” according to the Hope Not Hate poll

The stats also show that “45 percent of all recorded religious hate crime offenses in England & Wales were targeted against Muslims.”

In essence, this discrimination hurdles Muslims from getting ahead with their lives as they suffer the highest unemployment rates. And, as expected, women are disproportionately impacted.

In 2018, Johnson wrote a column comparing Muslim women who wear niqab to “letterboxes” and “bank robbers.”

Why Does IAM Matter?

Zara Mohammed, the secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) which is a national body that represents over 500 Muslim organizations, explained how discrimination and Islamophobia undermine Muslims’ confidence and limit their opportunities in life. To add to that, Muslim women who wear hijab are targeted even more.

“Many young Muslims struggle. Even though they’ve got their degree and are professionally qualified, they are not getting jobs because of their name and ethnicity — that’s still a big barrier,” Mohammed said. 

“Our voice and ability to be ourselves and attain the best we can in life is being hindered unfortunately by this Islamophobic discrimination and these barriers,” she continued.

Earlier in February 2021, Mohammed was invited to speak on Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour after making British history by becoming the first, and the youngest, Muslim woman to be elected to lead the MCB. With that being said, the interview itself exemplified Islamophobia at its worst.

Emma Barnett, the host of the broadcast, posed questions to Mohammed that were hostile. Given Barnett’s aggressiveness at that point, the whole interview sounded like a political interrogation.

During the interview, Emma Barnett kept asking Mohammed about the number of female imams in Britain — something that Mohammed wasn’t supposed to learn about anyway.

What’s Happening in This #IAM2021?

On November 10, Afzal Khan, UK Labour MP for Manchester Gorton, wrote a letter to the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson after having his first letter ignored last year. 

Khan is also the shadow deputy leader of the House of Commons, and a member of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on British Muslims.

“This time last year to mark this month, I wrote to the prime minister raising concerns over Islamophobia, urging him to better safeguard British Muslims and to fulfil his promise to carry out an independent investigation into his party,” he told the House of Commons.

Earlier in September, Zarah Sultana, UK Labour MP for Coventry South, talked about her experiences with Islamophobia, how people mistreated her “as if [she was] an enemy of the country [she] was born in,” along with how she was called a “terrorist sympathizer,” and the “scum of the earth.”

Quite recently, Sultana has been subjected to Islamophobic hate from two people who told her that they saw her “as an invader,” and demanded her to “stop pretending” to be British and just “go back to [her] country.”

UK Labour MP for Streatham and Co-Chair of Socialist Campaign Group of MPs, Bell Ribeiro-Addy, voiced her solidarity with Sultana, calling out the hate and discrimination that she has been facing as a Muslim woman in the political sphere.

Where Do We Go From Here?

Muslims in Britain have are striving every single day and even though we know that Islamophobia isn’t new in western societies, we need to stand with our Muslim families in Britain. 

IAM has been here since 2012, but how many times have you scrolled through your Instagram feed, for example, and came across profiles observing it? British Muslims are doing their best to show the world that there is a whole month dedicated to defending Muslims who are not just in the UK, but in Asia and other countries as well. 

Each November, they double down their focus on using their voices to condemn Islamophobia, despite the unbearable hate they get in return.

IAM needs to get the media attention it deserves. This is a month for us to claim; Islamophobia isn’t just in Britain, it’s everywhere, and recognizing this month on a global scale is key to bringing about change. Use your voice to spread awareness about Islamophobia Awareness Month.