A large part of British politics is determining which party gets the most votes from minority demographics. Ahead of the general election on the 12th of December, opinions from faith groups have been in the headlines more than usual. For example, The Telegraph posted a video highlighting anti-semitism within the Labour Party, and why young British Jews don’t feel comfortable supporting Labour. The Huffington Post recently published an article depicting how South Asian politics are influencing this election, causing British-Indian voters to support Conservative instead. We also saw letters from the Muslim, Hindu and Jewish Councils publicly addressing discrimination within the Conservative and Labour Party. One voice that mainstream media tends to ignore, however, are those from Muslims, which unsurprisingly ties into both of the media outlets mentioned.
It is important to, first of all, breakdown both The Telegraph’s video and The Huffington Post article to understand the way that the media influences voters’ minds and how this further contributes to Islamophobia.
As a hyper-visible, young, British Muslim woman, I can completely understand the concerns that other young British Jews face when it comes to wearing their Star of David or going to Synagogues. I deal with these same micro-aggressions on a daily basis with my hijab. However, the reason that Corbyn has been branded as anti-Semitic is mostly due to his stance on the Palestine-Israel conflict. Let’s get one thing straight from the start though: supporting the rights of the Palestinian people and condemning a government that is killing innocent people? There is nothing anti-Semitic about that; it’s the same way we oppose the injustices from the Saudi government without being Islamophobic. There is a distinct difference between anti-semitism and anti-Zionism, which I believe more people need to understand, especially in our current political climate. Without taking away from the experience of British Jews, the voices of British Muslims within these conversations of religion and politics are often shunned aside, despite our faith being one of the most talked about in the media.
In regards to The Huffington Post article about “toxic” South Asian politics, I undoubtedly agree that our own cultural politics should not get in the way of British politics, although the content of the article struck a chord within me. The reason why many Indian, Hindu, or Sikh voters are choosing to support the Conservative Party after many years of voting Labour is due to Corbyn’s support of Kashmir and Muslims. For the record, the Kashmiri people are currently facing an impending genocide, as it remains one of the world’s most militarised zones, with children being detained and women being raped, all at the hands of the Indian government. It would make sense for any person with a sense of humanity to oppose these atrocities. Within the article, it references a shared “perception that Corbyn favours Muslims” and that “Labour has been captured by people who wear their religion as their identity.”
British Muslims are tired of defending themselves and battling Islamophobia on a daily basis. What we want is a leader who not only says “no” to racism in theory, but puts in place legislations to eradicate it.
Under Modi’s government, statistics show that Islamophobic hate crimes are on the rise, similarly to the rest of the world. Videos and stories have emerged from within India of the violent treatment that Muslims face, forcing them to eat pork and being beaten simply for the faith that they practice. In our current society, Muslims are often the most marginalised by governments, so if Corbyn chooses to show his support for them, why should one’s own prejudices come in the way of supporting that party?
The point of this op-ed is to uncover Islamophobia within political parties, and through people understanding this, surely we can influence the future of politics for the better. The Conservative Party, and Boris Johnson in particular, have a long-winded history of Islamophobia that needs to be discussed and taken action against ahead of the general election.
Last year, Johnson stated that Muslim women who wore burqas resembled “bank robbers” and “letter boxes.” This is a prime example of how hate crimes and racism on the streets is a top down crime, rather than being escalated from the bottom up. As a Muslim women, I am the one who has to face the repercussions of Johnson’s actions, not him. Whilst Theresa May was in power, we also saw her reject the definition of Islamophobia proposed to Parliament. This broadcasts the message that unlike other hate crimes, Islamophobia is not one important enough to recognise, so it is therefore acceptable. The leader of the Green Party said he would put a ban on halal meat, confirming that underlying Islamophobia is gaining political points in this election.
British Muslims are tired of defending themselves and battling Islamophobia on a daily basis. What we want is a leader who not only says “no” to racism in theory, but puts in place legislations to eradicate it. There is a whole other conversation that needs to be discussed at another time — anti-terror legislations, the use of Prevent, and hijab laws — all of which would influence voters’ opinions on parties.
Essentially, this election matters for faith groups. Muslims are tired of having leaders who systematically dehumanise them. Time to say, “no more!” This election, use your vote to implement a change in our society.