SHAFAQNA – To mark the end of this years Islamophobia Awareness Month, Student Stand Up To Racism and the Queen Mary’s AhlulBayt Society held a panel discussion led by Muslim women on a much neglected topic – gendered Islamophobia.
Muslim women have borne the brunt of Islamophobia, whether in comments by politicians that they’re “traditionally submissive” or when facing acid attacks and physical assault on the streets if Britain. How are ordinary Muslim women coping with this reality on the front line of rising racism? Panellists at the event consisted of Zahra al-Alawi, Naima Omar, and Yasmin Khatun.
Zahra Al Alawi said mainstream media had much to answer for in the rise of institutional and grassroots Islamophobia. She related how she had been approached by Channel 4 who called her to discuss whether she believed Sharia Law should be implemented in the UK. She agreed and when they turned up for the interview she says she responded by saying sharia law should not be implemented in the UK and all women should not be forced to wear the headscarf. After 5 more minutes of inflammatory questions, they said they could not go ahead with the topic simply because I wasn’t giving them the answers they required. ” A lot of eloquent Muslims who can portray Islam well are omitted from mainstream media narratives because the media wants an Islamophobic sensationalism to win audience ratings and therefore we only see more and more lunatic fringes dominating media spaces.
She also pointed to how Primary school children will now be questioned on why they wear headscarves – an act which is now being cited as a reason for the sexualisation of girls by Ofsted, the school governing body in Britain. This is yet another example of the institutionalized Islamophobia against Muslim girls. Zahra said ” Secular liberal society arguably oversexualizes women more than any headscarf does for example what about the role of high heels mini skirts and makeup? The headscarf in fact does quite the reverse.”
It seems bigots love to talk about Muslim women being oppressed, and how they need to be liberated. In France, the picture of officials on a beach telling a Muslim woman to undress because the burkini according to the law is ‘offensive’ is more evidence of institutional religio-racism in Europe.”
Panellists also agreed it is now increasingly a fact, in the West, that a phone interview with a Muslim woman may go well only for her chances to secure the job collapse when she goes in person to the interview with a hijab on. It was further highlighted that women have even had to begin changing their Muslim names to fit in and be accepted in society. The panels major concern was that it is the British government which is promoting these nefarious methods of Muslim women’s assimilation to secular liberalism and that it was now Important to build a mass movement against this anti Islamic agenda.
Naima Omar said “Now more than ever, Islamophobia has to be recognized by law as a form of racism. It is important that we fight back, and not get to the point where we are too scared to fight back, and wear headscarves etc.”
Stand Up to Racism is involved in staging more similar initiatives around the country to mark Islamophobia Awareness Month Their team says “We’ve seen a rise in Islamophobia around the world, from Donald Trump’s Muslim Ban to the spike in anti-Muslim hate crime in the UK. We regularly see the Muslim communities demonised by the press and politicians. On campuses and colleges, the Prevent agenda unfairly targets Muslim students. Muslim women are often at the forefront of this racism, with horrific attacks targeting women who wear the hijab or nikab.”