East London acid attack: When Muslims are the victims, we refuse to call it terrorism

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SHAFAQNA – The differences in how we talk about attacks on Muslims, as opposed to those perpetrated by Muslims, reveal a double standard rooted in Islamophobia.

Jameel Muhktar and his cousin Resham Khan will never forget what happened at 9.15am on June 21. They were victims of a horrific acid attack by a white male in East London. Jameel went into an induced coma and Resham’s career as an aspiring model is now over. The couple firmly believe this was an Islamophobic hate crime.

As shocking as the attack was, most mainstream media has either failed to cover it or at best relegated it to a minor story. One can’t help but feel that if Jameel and Resham were James and Rebecca, and white rather than Asian, then their images would have made headline news for at least a day.

This is not the first time tragedy befalling British Muslims has been treated differently from non-Muslims. Cast your mind back to the brutal murders of Mohammed Saleem and Mushin Ahmed, who were knifed and kicked to death respectively.  Compare and contrast the coverage of their murders to the rightful attention received by Jo Cox’s brutal murder and fusilier Lee Rigby’s. The latter names are now rightly permanently etched into our minds, whereas Mohamed Saleem and Muhsin Ahmed are virtually unknown outside the Muslim community.

The lack of reporting is not the only problem; a dual reluctance to brand attacks against Muslims as “terrorism”, while attacks by white men are reported as anything but terror, just smacks of sheer media double-standards in the eyes of British Muslims. When Jo Cox was murdered by a right-wing terrorist, The Sun preferred to report it as “mental illness of a loner” while the Daily Mail wasfiercely criticised for not even putting it on the front page. No surprise then that in the immediate aftermath of the Finsbury Park tragedy, Ashish Joshi of Sky News was hounded by Muslims filled with rage outside the mosque who demanded that the mowing down of Muslims be called out for what it is: a “terrorist attack”.

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The simple, underlying, and inconvenient truth is that Islamophobia is now institutionalised within parts of our society. This week I wrote an open letter to the Home Secretary challenging her to come good on the “full protection” she promised British Muslims and revealing some troubling statistics. Figures show there are nearly 7,000 anti-Muslim hate crimes a year. Between March 2016 and March 2017, there were 143,920 anti-Muslim or anti-Islamic Tweets sent from the UK – this amounts to 393 a day.

The National Equality Panel found Muslims are paid 13-21% less than others with equal qualifications. BBC research showed Muslim job applicants were three times less likely to be offered an interview.

For every one occasion a positive or neutral reference is used to describe Muslims in the print press, there are no fewer than twenty-one occasions of negative or extremist references. ChildLine  showed that Muslim children seem to be bearing the brunt of a 69% increase in playground racism with ‘bomber’ and ‘terrorist’ being used all too frequently.

The real insult to injury is that since 2010, successive Tory Governments who could have tackled Islamophobic hate crime have effectively boycotted mainstream Muslim organisations and instead dealt with a tiny number of Government stooges lacking any credibility in the Muslim  community.  Worse still, if media reports are to be believed Mak Chishty, former Met Officer roundly criticised by over 100 Muslim organisations may well land the job of the new countering extremism commission – more evidence that Government is just not listening.

Only when we treat Muslims like equals will things finally improve.

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