Column: Let's starve hate-mongers of soundbites
Throughout this Islamic month of Ramadan, Mosques have been opening their doors feeding and interacting with people of all faiths and none, homeless, rich or poor. I would not be surprised if more than a million people in the UK were fed, including many millions across the world. Yet despite these interactions it seems that they are not enough to stop unprecedented levels of hate or anti-Muslim inspired attacks.
This month, we have had a Mosque and a Gurdwara in Leeds being subject to an arson attack and a Mosque in Rotherham receiving a further threatening letter that there will a further Punish a Muslim Day in July of this year.
I am tired of our hardworking police having to provide community assurances that things will be ok, politicians (as usual) continue to use abstract terms and the Government has committed money for crime prevention work and so on. None of this will make a difference to how it feels in being a Muslim in the UK today, or address the actual causes of hate. Muslims are demonised as terrorist sympathisers, misogynists, abusers, subjugate women, have something wrong in their heritage and plan to Islamise and change the DNA of the UK. Everything you hear chanted by the number of far right marches in this country and the placards these hate-mongers hold up to divide and polarise communities. Ask either Alan Billings or Mark Burns-Williamson, respective Police and Crime Commissioners, of financial costs in South and West Yorkshire, and they will tell you collectively it’s more than a million.
I know I should confront the racists and the fascists, which I will, although I must confess I am incredibly sad, more than I am angry. My reasons for this is because this are what happens when acts of criminality are irresponsibly racialised by prominent politicians and the media for the sake of populism. As a result, communities become divided and polarised, victim’s voices are lost, grievances get hijacked and the far right is given oxygen and legitimisation to march through our communities, spewing hate and subtly changing the conscience and thoughts of ordinary people to join them on a cause. Therefore, should I be angry at the far-right groups or the people that gave them oxygen and legitimisation? More fundamentally, we must realise that nationalism is having an impact on generations of people, young and old.
For me, we must do everything in our power to prevent losing generations to hate. Notwithstanding the fact if we don’t work together to stop this hate, it will cost billions, though the community cost will be infinitely more. To change, we must work together to deconstruct the narrative of hate, up the ante on promoting diversity, bring people together and ensure that the contribution of minorities is firmly embedded – economically, socially and culturally – in policy frameworks that mainly public sector institutions are responsible for. If we can do these simple acts, carry forward the spirit of Ramadan, I’m convinced we can collectively change this trajectory, and starve the hate-mongers from their hate filled populist driven soundbites.