SHAFAQNA – The worrying growth of nativism in the UK and around the world was the focus of this years Islamophobia Conference 2017 held in London. The event, organized annually by the Islamic Human Rights Commission, boasted an international line up of speakers including Luis Manuel Hernandez Aguilar, Arzu Merali, Amrit Wilson, Hatem Bazian, Phil Miller and Salman Sayed among others.
IHRC’s founder Masoud Shadjareh explained that “nativism is the political policy of promoting the interests of ‘native’ inhabitants against those of “immigrants”. It is racism masquerading as patriotism.” Professor Ramon Grosfoguel from the University of California, a key guest speaker at the conference, said that the systemic institutional racism that exists in the West is still, not only rife at every institutional level, but getting worse.
He identified its roots in colonialism and sees modern forms of Western imperialism as its willing incubators today.
It won’t get any better in the near future with the rise of the US or European populism and its underlying nationalistic ‘soft’ fascism.
This conference follows hot on the heels of the launch of the Runneymede Trusts report on Islamophobia. The Trust is a mainstrean UK race equality charity which recently launched a new report, “Islamophobia: Still a challenge for us all” , to mark the twentieth anniversary of the publication of the first 1997 report,“ Over the past two decades,’” the editors say, “awareness of Islamophobia has increased, whether in terms of discrimination against Muslims, or in terms of public and policy discussion of it.”
IHRC says this racism reared its ugly head during the Brexit debates during which time anti-immigrant sentiments were fanned to ensure a victory for the leave camp and they confirm that since then, incidents of racism and Islamophobia have been on the rise. The Metropolitan polices own statistics confirm that Islamophobic attacks have gone up hugely and following the Brexit vote this shot up even more markedly with Muslim hijab wearing women making up over 70% of the reported attacks and this is inspite of the fact that most Muslims do not report Islamophobic hate crimes being carried out against them.
Arzoo Merali highlighted how her research revealed how people were attacked on the streets and were told by their assailants that they now had to leave the UK since the leave vote was successful. The ‘leave’ result has in effect further legitimised the environment of hate the Muslim communities of Britain already exist in.
IHRC’s conference also highlighted that the election of Donald Trump in America has allowed nativism to enter mainstream politics.According to IHRC’s research “Trump branded Mexicans as lazy and as rapists, Muslims as terrorists and he imposed a ‘Muslim Ban’. His anti-immigration stance and his plan for a wall on the Mexican border has resonated with people from the US rust belt who feel they have been marginalised and silenced by immigrants, foreigners, they regard as the ‘other’ who they claim are destroying their way of life.
Trump’s rise to power mirrors an increase in hate crimes against minorities in the States too. Black communities continue to struggle against systemic violence, as well as racism from their fellow citizens, while Trump publicly undermines any criticism voiced by black communities.Trump’s presidency has also emboldened secret Klu Klux Klan members and other neo- Nazis to openly march on the streets again, he has additionally galvanised the so-called Alt-right movement and the Jewish as well as the Christian Zionists behind him, and effectively made soft racism normal and acceptable to large swathes of mainstream Americans.
Abid Chaudry says that across Europe we see a similar trend; the rise of the far-right has been fuelled by nativist sentiments. Ideas of foreigners taking over, of destroying indigenous cultures and imposing their own alien way of life have been the main talking points for the likes of the AFD in Germany, Marine Le Pen in France and Geert Wilders in the Netherlands.
Consistent findings from Pew attitude surveys report incredibly high numbers of Hungarians (72 percent), Italians (69 percent), Poles (66 percent), Greeks (65 percent), Spaniards (50 percent), Swedes (35 percent), Dutch (35 percent), Germans (29 percent) and French (29 percent) and Britons (28 percent) who rate Muslims ‘unfavourably.’
Recent elections in Germany, Austria, France and the Czech Republic saw major electoral gains for far-right parties / candidates. Europe’s shift to the right also signals a new era of nativist policies, and foreshadows a future of uncertainty and instability for minority communities.
The conference agreed that “when talking about Islamophobia we need to be able to grasp the ways in which discrimination against Muslim minorities picks out people on the basis of supposedly discernible common characteristics. This may then involve the attribution to those individuals an alleged group tendency. It will inevitably also emphasize those features that are used to stigmatize them, or promote negative assumptions based on the individuals perceived membership of the group. Delegates suggested that instead of trying to neatly separate things that are intertwined; we should, , understand Islamophobia as another form of racialization or race making and have it recognized as such by law.
Getting the British public to recognize the fundamental racist essence of Islamophobia could also reunite Muslims with large parts of British society who have been alienated from them to a considerable extent by the incessant neocon-inspired, socially engineered hate campaigns which have used isolated issues around teenage grooming forced marriages, FGM, terrorism etc to exaggerate Muslim association to criminal activity.
Conference delegates agreed thst Muslims also need to stop being victims or hiding from the threat of Islamophobia by uniting with mainstream social justice campaigners and standing up for their rights more vigorously and communoty leaders particularly need to organize their flock against right of centre politicians, media and moneylenders. More financial investment is necessary to fight the legal battles necessary to preempt and protect their people.
In conclusion activists agreed tackling the root causes of Islamophobia, rather than simply treating it’s symptoms is the urgent requirement of the day.