Is Islamophobia the new normal in Britain?
Last week the well-known Channel 4 News broadcaster Fatima Manji spoke out on Twitter about an incident of racial abuse in which she was the victim -- a young boy on the street said "you f***ing Paki" to her.
Manji is a well known face on national television, an accomplished journalist and presenter, she became even more known in the wake of the Bastille Day terror attack in Nice last year because of the fact that she wears a headscarf or hijab. What happened was that a former editor of the tabloid The Sun, Kelvin Mackenzie, wrote in his Sun column that he was shocked to see Manji presenting coverage of the terror attacks: he asked "Was it appropriate for her to be on camera when there has been yet another shocking slaughter by a Muslim?"
Despite the outrage and backlash provoked by his column Mackenzie continued to insist that it was his opinion that Channel 4 News had "made an error", and he refused to admit how bigoted and unreasonable his remarks were. Underlying his criticism was the assumption that all Muslims should be held responsible for a criminal act committed by one or a few perpetrators who also happened to be Muslim.
What he didn’t really bother to reflect on was the link he was making between tv journalism, race and crime -- because, according to his own logic, he, as a man, would be barred from commenting or presenting content on tv related to crimes committed by a ‘fellow’ male (rape, murder etc). Or by this logic as a ‘white’ person should Mackenzie have been barred from presenting coverage or making comments on apartheid on the basis that he belonged to the same group as the oppressors and torturers?
But Mackenzie’s column does highlight the way Islamophobic or generally bigoted views are now on the rise in Britain. The Leave campaign leading up to the Brexit referendum in June last year, opened the floodgates in terms of hate crimes and prejudice. Not just was a Polish man murdered and several East Europeans in the UK attacked, the Polish Centre in London was covered with abusive, hate filled graffiti. And Amnesty reported that suddenly ‘Paki’ as a term of racist abuse had made a comeback -- after decades.
The organisation Tell Mama, which records and measures anti-Muslim incidents in the UK, has a similar story to tell and last month’s Hope not Hate Populus poll revealed that attitudes towards Islam and Muslims have become more hostile with just 10 per cent of the public feeling that Muslims are similar to themselves.
Manji was also shocked by the recent abuse incident because the abuser was so young, "looked like a 12-year-old in central London". She said she was "walking down the street, going home from work" when the youngster made the remark, and when she asked "what did you say?" he responded boldly, "I said you f***ing Paki". The broadcaster recounts "I had tears in my eyes. So much hatred, so young. And yet there is no real recourse".
It is this sense that very little can now be done to stem the tide of hate and bigotry that is so extremely disturbing. All the economic uncertainty following Britain’s exit from the EU will only make things worse as jobs become scarcer, prices rise and uncertainty increases.
In an era of increasing xenophobia and anti-immigrant messages, where leaders hark on about ‘nationalism’ when they really mean racial or national ‘purity’, we are all in danger of being destroyed by the haters on both sides of the spectrum. We know what a hate crime is, but how should we deal with it? Surely just recording and protesting is not going to do very much…
Hate vibes are poisoning our so-called civilised society…