Britain’s political class has stoked a moral panic about British Muslims to dodge accountability for their role in Israel’s genocide — unleashing a wave of Islamophobic hate crime.

Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

On a late Sunday evening, a severed pig’s head and a brick were thrown through the window of a Muslim family’s home in Blackburn. The family, who’d lived there for 50 years, were left ‘extremely distressed’ by the incident. The incident is eerily reminiscent of the daily lived reality of Black and Asian people many decades ago. And just as high-profile politicians like Enoch Powell empowered the racists back then, many of our politicians are creating a hostile environment for British Muslims today.

In the last few days alone, this has taken the form of alarmist statements from former Home Secretary Suella Braverman, claiming that ‘Islamists are in charge of Britain’ and that we are ‘sleepwalking into a ghettoised society’ in reference to Palestine solidarity protests in the nation’s capital.

The charge of ‘Islamism’ is increasingly being used to target Muslims who participate in perfectly legal forms of political activity.  Of course, Braverman’s remarks are also a nod to the Great Replacement Theory: the idea that the native whites are being taken over by backwards and violent foreigners.

In the same vein, we have seen Liz Truss tell far-right commentator Steve Bannon that a ‘radical jihadist party’ is about to take over in Rochdale and that Bannon, who has claimed that Islam is at ‘global war’ with the Judeo-Christian world, should come over and ‘sort out Britain’. And then, of course, we had Lee Anderson MP accusing London mayor Sadiq Khan of ‘giving the capital away to his mates’ and that Islamists have taken control of both the city of London and Khan himself. Yesterday, another Conservative MP, Paul Scully, peddled yet more Islamophobic conspiracy theories by talking about ‘no-go’ areas in Tower Hamlets and Birmingham. Kemi Badenoch, meanwhile, has accused Labour of introducing ‘blasphemy laws’ in the UK simply for adopting a definition of Islamophobia agreed upon by the All Party Parliamentary Group on British Muslims.

Yet, perhaps more sinister than all of these comments themselves is the relative silence of government figures in response to this torrent of Islamophobia. When questioned, Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden said that he did not believe Anderson ‘intended’ to be Islamophobic and insisted that ‘worries about language’ should not prevent democratically elected officials from calling out ‘threats coming often from Islamist extremists which are being used to intimidate Jews and… debate in our own Parliament.’

Islamophobia isn’t a theoretical dispute about religion. It’s about people like me being attacked because we are perceived to be different and racialised as the ‘other’. And while politicians pontificate about definitions and language, incidents of anti-Muslim hate crime have skyrocketed by 335 percent since October, according to the hate crime monitoring group Tell Mama.

Islamophobia, of course, is not exclusive to the Conservative Party. It is a systemic issue that is present across the political spectrum. In fact, it was the internal apparatus of our democracy that played a central role in unleashing the virulent and normalised islamophobia that we have seen in the last few days. 

The controversial decision of the Speaker of the House, Lindsay Hoyle, to deny our elected officials the right to be able to vote on a motion calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza that referenced the collective punishment of Palestinians after pressure was applied by the Labour Party was indefensible enough. But then he chose to deflect blame by throwing Muslims under the bus and peddling discord by claiming that his actions were to protect MPs whose safety was threatened over their stance on Palestine. In doing so, Hoyle peddled just about every Islamophobic stereotype going: that pro-Palestine supporters (largely portrayed as being exclusively Muslim, although anyone who’s ever been on a march will attest otherwise) are violent and threatening, undemocratic and antisemitic. And, arguably, that the safety of MPs supersedes the safety of Palestinian children decimated by Israeli bombs stamped with British approval.

By normalising, in the central chambers of this nation’s democracy, this idea that Muslims who support Palestine are something that our representatives need protecting from, Hoyle has not only co-signed Braverman’s highly inflammatory comments made at the end of last year that pro-Palestine protests are ‘hate marches’ rife with extremism and antisemitism, but he has also manufactured the perfect conditions for those with anti-Muslim stances to push their own agendas.

He has paved the way for the likes of Truss to jump on the bandwagon and appeal to the far right; for Braverman to appease her anti-Muslim fanbase and to continue to build her own personal (Islamophobic) brand; for our elected officials to implant ideas in the minds of the electorate that Muslims are taking over Britain and only their party can stop us.

Islamophobia is about more than just prejudice against Muslims. It serves as a political tool, used to justify both domestic and foreign policy agendas. Muslims are dehumanised and depicted as a terror threat both home and abroad while governments enact authoritarian legislation in the name of counter-terrorism. This was the modus operandi of New Labour and it is being deployed today to shield Israel from accountability.

The last few days have been exceptionally bad, but most Muslims will tell you that the past five months or so have felt like living in a pressure cooker. What we see play out on our screens has a real impact on our lived experiences as Muslims in Britain. Whether it’s Julia Hartley-Brewer’s comments to Palestinian MP Mustafa Barghouti that he must not be used to a woman speaking (thus painting all Muslim women as mute and all Muslim men as misogynists) or Piers Morgan’s assumption that women convert to Islam to become oppressed, there has been a heightened attack on Muslimness itself in the public arena. This feeds into an increased vulnerability in being visibly Muslim in public, the discrimination we face at the hands of our places of employment and education for advocating for Palestine and the frequency at which we find ourselves victims of hate crimes.

As Islamophobia in Britain becomes ever more embedded in mainstream narratives, it seems clear to me that to be Muslim somewhere like Britain means being forced to watch the decimation of our counterparts in Palestine whilst being ever-more criminalised for our righteous anger at home.

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