“Islamophobia – a term that encompasses a range of meanings, though in general it is a term which means a fear of Islam and Muslim communities. People can fear many things, but the targeting and abuse of people because of a facet of their identity is unacceptable. It is unacceptable since at the heart of our morality and our common humanity, is that people should be able to live their lives free from fear and intolerance. It is unacceptable since everyone should have the right to be who they are and in doing so, it should inspire us and enlighten our souls and consciousness, as to the beauty of life and to those who believe, to the beauty of creation.
Today, through the work that we do in Tell MAMA, we have seen that Muslim women who are visible, those who wear the Hijab (the religious headscarf) and the Niqab (the face veil), are the ones predominantly targeted for abuse and assaults. Visibility is also a factor for attacks on males and I know that we have a member of the family of Mr Saleem here today and we should remember all those who have departed because of the evils of hate and intolerance. Yet, we are also the solution. We, collectively are the solution, since by education and through dialogue, hate and intolerance can be challenged. We are the solution since by caring and listening to each other, we can enrich our understanding for each other. We are the solution since together, as communities, we are in the majority who can say ‘Not In Our Names.’
As we move into a world which seems increasingly turbulent, we see pictures of refugees fleeing war and instability. For our work in Tell MAMA, many of these pictures mean that on-line comments are made by people who suggest a ‘Muslim take-over’ and that ‘refugees are a code word for Muslims and Shariah Law’. This bigotry and intolerance, this marginalisation and caricaturing of communities must stop and we have the power to do so. If we do not, if we simply think that it is not our problem, then we are failing all in our communities, in our societies and in our country. Indeed, that Muslim woman on the street being verbally abused is our responsibility, as is the gay mean kicked as he walks home and the Jewish young boy who was spat at, as he walks home from the synagogue. Our only salvation and pride is in standing for everyone of them.
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