On a July evening in Plymouth, Jak Burgess, 20, boarded a bus heading towards the city centre with friends, and sat next to a Buddhist man of Sri Lankan origin. Within seconds, Burgess accused him being a member of ISIS who intended to bomb the bus. An accusation that turned to violence in a paroxysm of racist rage.
Perturbed, the bus driver stopped the vehicle, and helped the Buddhist man downstairs. His attacker followed. And his tone grew more aggressive when the Buddhist man refused to shake his hand.
A police appeal soon bore positive results. And Jak Burgess admitted the racially aggravated charge. He then failed to attend his sentencing hearing earlier this month. Now Plymouth Magistrates’ Court have issued a warrant for his arrest.
The question remains: how do you account for this incident? One explanation concerns racialisation. It is in the assumption of Muslim identity based on ethnicity. Racialisation also impacts white converts to Islam. This owes in part to their expressions of religiosity.
In a broader sense, religious conversion creates a fundamental shift in how a person views the world. A study of British converts to Islam published in 1996 found that it created an identity change at a ‘personal and public level’. One aspect of ‘public change’ for some, especially females, includes a change of dress. A 2013 study of female converts to Islam found that some did experiment with adopting different Islamic veils. Others adapted their regular clothing styles to fit Islamic concepts of modesty.
Adopting this style of clothing has spiritual and social elements. Converts seek acceptance in Muslim communities. Some converts do not find the welcome they seek, as others do. The perception of an outsider can sometimes prove hard to shake. Black converts can face alienation due to the racist attitudes of some. Converts can also experience alienation from family and friends after converting. Many converts just aim to bridge the gap between communities and demonstrate a compatable ‘English and Muslim’ identity. This conforms to other polls that indicate high levels of national pride in Muslim communities.
Some white converts receive the epithet of ‘p*ki’ due to their outward expression of faith.
In a post-9/11 climate, Sikh communities continue to experience different degrees of racist backlashes. This can drift between racial abuse, violence, and murder. Following the most recent atrocities in Paris, Sikhs have faced a backlash in the United States. Both faith groups are now uniting together to push back against this wave of racist violence and hate.
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