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Anti-Muslim Bigotry

British Bigotry – Sayeeda Warsi’s Speech

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With Islamophobia being in the newspapers on almost a daily basis, Sayeeda Warsi’s speech at Leicester University has resulted in providing more fuel to the media as well as questions about David Cameron’s choice of Cabinet Minister for his new government.

Sayeeda Warsi has been lauded for becoming the first British Muslim Cabinet Minister. Since her appointment in government she has been fairly outspoken about the place of religion in politics. Whilst her past attempts have appeared to be bold, this seems to have been her most brazen attempt at trying to bring the recently bigoted attitude of everyday British people to the fore.

As a British Muslim myself, I’m not quite sure what to make of her speech. Naturally, newspapers have pulled everything out of context and I, for one, am not surprised. However, I was incredibly perplexed to see a blog article by one of Britain’s right-wing newspapers, The Telegraph, actually praising her for her speech. Bear in mind that The Telegraph is not known to be the most Muslim-friendly newspaper. In fact I have found it to be anything but friendly towards Muslims, and usually one of the first newspapers at the newsagent’s to have some sort of shock-inducing, Muslim-related headline.

Warsi’s speech can be read in full at her website, and of course she makes some very good points. I agree that I have seen a slow progression of a bigoted attitude towards Muslims. I remember once collecting for Charity Week with another sister a few years ago at university and observing the countenance of a woman as she walked pass reading my t-shirt. As soon as she saw the word ‘Islamic’, the expression on her face turned into one of horror and disgust as she walked away from us even faster than she was at the time. Whenever I look back on that, I think about WHY she did that. Conspiracy theories aside, events such 9/11, 7/7 and other incidents have not helped the situation. But I have observed the declining change in British attitudes towards Muslims over the past 10 years and I hold the media’s constant scrutiny of us, accountable.

The latter part of the Telegraph’s blog article by Peter Oborne only proves that gross distortion of minor incidents have not just pulled the actions of Muslims completely out of context, but also displays the depths to which the media stoops to get a ‘scoop’. The mention of politically correct journalists being proud to be ‘Islamophobic’ is, at the very least, abhorrent and at its worst, reminiscent of Nazism. And we all know what that leads to.

I’m disappointed that in Sayeeda Warsi speaking the truth in such a bold way has resulted in a negative reaction, but then I’m not surprised. History has proven to us that those who speak home truths against oppression, no matter how harsh they may be, will always be heavily scrutinised. However, these same people tend to leave a legacy behind. I do not doubt Sayeeda’s intentions, but it could be that her desire to create a change may result in daring actions and subsequently, a desire to leave behind a legacy. And is there anything wrong with that? I just hope that her potential desire doesn’t lead to potentially disastrous and reckless actions in the future.

Coming back to Sayeeda Warsi’s speech, I am not here to judge her actions as a Muslim, but as a politician whose speech could impact my life and the lives of those around me, both Muslim and non-Muslim. At best, I hope that most people will take the time out to read her speech in full and take her words on board, but I also know that, realistically, few people will do that and will prefer to live in their bigoted, Islamophobically-charged lives, reading the Daily Mail and The Telegraph. After all, who really wants to think for themselves when the media is doing it for them?

With Islamophobia being in the newspapers on almost a daily basis, Sayeeda Warsi’s speech at Leicester University has resulted in providing more fuel to the media as well as questions about David Cameron’s choice of Cabinet Minister for his new government.

Sayeeda Warsi has been lauded for becoming the first British Muslim Cabinet Minister. Since her appointment in government she has been fairly outspoken about the place of religion in politics. Whilst her past attempts have appeared to be bold, this seems to have been her most brazen attempt at trying to bring the recently bigoted attitude of everyday British people to the fore.

As a British Muslim myself, I’m not quite sure what to make of her speech. Naturally, newspapers have pulled everything out of context and I, for one, am not surprised. However, I was incredibly perplexed to see a blog article by one of Britain’s right-wing newspapers, The Telegraph, actually praising her for her speech. Bear in mind that The Telegraph is not known to be the most Muslim-friendly newspaper. In fact I have found it to be anything but friendly towards Muslims, and usually one of the first newspapers at the newsagent’s to have some sort of shock-inducing headline.

Sayeeda’s speech can be read in full at her website, and of course she makes some very good points. I agree that I have seen a slow progression of a bigoted attitude towards Muslims. I remember once collecting for Charity Week with another sister a few years ago at university and observing the countenance of a woman as she walked pass reading my t-shirt. As soon as she saw the word ‘Islamic’, the expression on her face turned into one of horror and disgust as she walked away from us even faster than she was at the time. Whenever I look back on that, I think about WHY she did that. Conspiracy theories aside, events such 9/11, 7/7 and other incidents have not helped the situation. But I have observed the change in British attitudes towards Muslims over the past 10 years and I hold the media’s constant scrutiny of us accountable.

The latter part of the Telegraph’s blog article by Peter Oborne only proves that gross distortion of minor incidents have not just pulled the actions of Muslims completely out of context, but also displays the depths to which the media stoops to get a ‘scoop’.

I’m disappointed that her speaking the truth in such a bold way has resulted in a negative reaction, but then I’m not surprised. History has proven to us that those who speak home truths against oppression, no matter how harsh they may be, will always be heavily scrutinised. However, these same people tend to leave a legacy behind. I do not doubt Sayeeda’s intentions, but it could be that her desire to create a change may result in daring actions and subsequently, a desire to leave behind a legacy. And is there anything wrong with that? I just hope that her potential desire doesn’t lead to potentially disastrous and reckless actions in the future.

Coming back to Sayeeda Warsi’s speech, I am not here to judge her actions as a Muslim, but as a politician whose speech could impact my life and the lives of those around me, both Muslim and non-Muslim. At best, I hope that most people will take the time out to read her speech in full and take her words on board, but I also know that, realistically, few people will do that and will prefer to live in their bigoted, Islamophobically-charged lives reading the Daily Mail and The Telegraph. After all, who really wants to think for themselves when the media is doing it for them?

Bushra is a recent Computer Science grad from King's College London and is currently shaking off her newly wedded status. Aside from writing for MM, she vents on her blog: http://bushrabinthashmat.blogspot.com/ Currently working for a global IT firm, she is pursuing various studies, both Islamic and career-related. Due to circumstances beyond her control, she is living the lifestyle of a nomad, jumping from place to place, packing and unpacking and visiting family at the same time. She is an accredited Software Tester. Nevertheless, this won't take her away from writing about Islam and life in general. Amongst all the working, writing and family commitments, she somehow manages to fulfill one of her other, slightly devilish (so to speak!) passions - baking desserts!

4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Cartoon M

    March 24, 2011 at 1:14 AM

    The “Sayeeda Warsi’s speech at Leicester” link isn’t working.

    Thanks for the post. I haven’t heard of this before.

    • Avatar

      Bushra

      March 24, 2011 at 5:20 AM

      Assalaamualaikum,

      I’ve fixed the link. Check it out.

  2. Avatar

    'Uthmaan

    March 24, 2011 at 3:33 PM

    Despite being a right-wing journalist, Peter Oborne has a good record of exposing the unfair victimisation of Muslims in Britain. For example, he did a Channel 4 Dispatches documentary back in 2008 called “It shouldn’t happen to a Muslim”. If you check out the link to that which still exists (http://www.channel4.com/news/articles/dispatches/it+shouldnt+happen+to+a+muslim/2314592.html), there are some good resources there such as a pamphlet that he authored on the subject and a report produced from research conducted by Cardiff School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies .

    • Avatar

      Hfzsp

      March 27, 2011 at 7:31 PM

      Hello, yes you are right, Peter Oborne is one of the few writers who writes fair articles without using the islamophobic paint brush. I was lucky enough to attend a training event in the uk a while back regarding media, politics and civic engagement and Peter was invited to speak due to his fair accurate and un-biased articles. I agree, usually the paper gives a good idea on the positive or negative slant of a muslim article but a better indicator might be the author of the article. I say that because i do not even read some articles written by some rather than choosing to read a paper or not.

      Jazakallah

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#Current Affairs

Faith Community Stands With Peace And Justice Leader Imam Omar Suleiman During Right Wing Attacks

Hena Zuberi

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In a follow up to the right-wing media platforms attack on Imam Omar Suleiman – calling him anti-semitic, a common tactic used to discredit both Muslim activists, as well as criticism of Israel policies, Faith Forward Dallas issued a statement.

Faith Forward Dallas at Thanksgiving Square – Faith Leaders United for Peace and Justice is a Texas-based interfaith organization that has worked on many initiatives with Imam Omar Suleiman.

The statement reads:

“Imam Omar Suleiman a spiritual and moral voice for peace with justice!!!!!

Time after time in our city, in the United States and around the world, Imam Omar Suleiman has been a spiritual and moral voice for peace with justice. When others seek to divide, he calls for unity. Faith Forward Dallas at Thanks-Giving Square works to unite faith leaders for justice and compassion. Imam Suleiman has been a trusted leader among us. In the wake of his beautiful prayer to open the House of Representatives on May 9, he has received threats of violence and words of vilification when instead he should have our praise and prayers. We call upon people of good will everywhere to tone down the rhetoric, to replace hate with love, and to build bridges toward the common good.

Faith Forward Dallas at Thanks-Giving Square”

Commenters on the Faith Forward Dallas statement have left comments of support.

The group has invited locals and other leaders to endorse and share the statement. “Endorsed! I love and fully you Imam Omar Suleiman!” wrote Karen Weldes Fry, Spiritual Director at Center of Spiritual Learning in Dallas (CSLDallas), commenting on the statement.

Some commentators do not understand the manufactured controversy.  Heather Mustain writes, “What people are writing is so vile. They obviously didn’t even listen to his prayer!” Imam  Omar Suleiman delivered the opening prayer in the US House of Representatives on May, 9th, 2019  at the invitation of Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D) of Dallas, TX.

“I’m grateful for the faith leaders with whom I’ve built relationships with and served with for years that have shown full support throughout this process. Together we’ve stood with one another in solidarity in the face of bigotry, and in the support of others in any form of pain. We will not let these dark forces divide us,” said Imam Omar Suleiman in response to the outpouring of love from the people he has worked with on the ground, building on peace, love, and justice.

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#Current Affairs

#UnitedForOmar – Imam Omar Suleiman Smeared by Right-Wing News After Opening Prayer at US House of Representatives

Zeba Khan

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Sh. Omar Suleiman delivered the opening prayer in the US House of Representatives yesterday, May, 9th, 2019  at the invitation of Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D) of Dallas.

Immediately since, right wing media platforms have begun spreading negative coverage of the Imam Omar Suleiman – calling him anti-semitic, a common tactic used to discredit both Muslim activists as well as criticism of Israel policies.

News outlets citing the criticism have pointed to a post from The Investigative Project on Terrorism or ITP, as the source. The  ITP was founded by and directed by noted Islamophobe Steven Emerson. Emerson’s history of hate speech has been documented for over two decades.

Since then, the story has been carried forward by multiple press outlets.

The immediate consequence of this has been the direction of online hate towards what has been Imam Omar Suleiman’s long history of preaching unity in the US socio-political sphere.

“Since my invocation I’ve been inundated with hate articles, threats, and other tactics of intimidation to silence me over a prayer for unity,” Imam Omar Suleiman says. “These attacks are in bad faith and meant to again send a message to the Muslim community that we are not welcome to assert ourselves in any meaningful space or way.”

MuslimMatters is proud to stand by Imam Omar Suleiman, and we invite our readers to share the evidence that counters the accusations against him of anti-semitism, bigotry, and hate. We would also encourage you to reach out, support, and amplify voices of support like Representative E.B.Johnson, and Representative Colin Allred.

You can help counter the false narrative, simply by sharing evidence of Imam Omar Suleiman’s work. It speaks for itself, and you can share it at the hashtag #UnitedForOmar

JazakAllahuKheiran


A Priest, a Rabbi, and an Imam Walk Into a Church in Dallas

At an interfaith panel discussion, three North Texas religious leaders promoted understanding and dialogue among Muslims, Jews, and Christians. Amid a vexed political and social climate, three religious leaders in North Texas—a priest, an imam, and a rabbi—proved it’s possible to come together in times of division. Source: DMagazine.com


Muslim congregation writes letters of support to Dallas Jewish Community

The congregation, led by Imam Omar Suleiman, penned more than 150 cards and letters. source: WFAA News


Historic action: Muslims and Jews for Dreamers

“We must recognize that the white supremacy that threatens the black and Latino communities, is the same white supremacy that spurs Islamophobia and antisemitism,” -Imam Omar Suleiman

Source: Bend The Arc


Through Dialogue, Interfaith Leaders Hope North Texans Will Better Understand Each Other

“When any community is targeted, they need to see a united faith voice — that all communities come together and express complete rejection of anything that would pit our society against one another more than it already is.” -Imam Omar Suleiman

Source: Kera News

 


Conversations at The Carter Center: Harmonizing Religion and Human Rights 

Source: The Carter Center


Imam: After devastating New Zealand attack, we will not be deterred

My wife and I decided to take our kids to a synagogue in Dallas the night after the massacre at Tree of Life in Pittsburgh to grieve and show solidarity with the Jewish community. My 5-year-old played with kids his age while we mourned inside, resisting hate even unknowingly with his innocence…” Source: CNN

 

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#Current Affairs

From Sri Lanka – The Niqab Ban and The Politics of Distraction

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This article was originally published on Groundviews

 

As of last Monday, Sri Lanka is taking a seat at the table next to a list of 13 other countries from across the world who have passed legislation banning the niqab or face veil.

Amidst incensed murmurs from certain parliamentarians, and following a discussion with the country’s main Islamic theological body, the All Ceylon Jammiatul Ulema (ACJU), the President’s office has announced that ‘any garment or item which obstructs the identification of a person’s face would be barred.’ Sri Lanka has been under emergency regulations following the Easter Sunday attacks which killed over 250 people. The ban will hold until emergency regulations are lifted.

Ever since the identification of the all-male terrorists behind the massacre as members of militant group ISIS, Muslim women -for some inexplicable reason- were to bear the hardest brunt. Instances of headscarved Muslim women being refused entry at various supermarkets and prominent establishments, was followed by the usual scaremongering via alarmist infographics doing the rounds yet again ‘educating’ the public of the differences between the burqa, hijab, and chador.

A victory indeed for both anti-Muslim voices, as well as to many within the Muslim community seeking to audibly amputate themselves from a supposedly dated form of Islam – one that they claim has no bearing to inherent Sri Lankan Muslim identity.  A view that discards the notion that any religious or ethnic identity is fluid, in flux, and subject to constant evolution.

The grand slam however is primarily for the current political establishment, members of whom are probably high-fiving each other as a result of this kneejerk symbol-politics manoeuvre on having supposedly successfully placated the public of their fears of homegrown terrorism. A move that bleeds hypocrisy for it comes at the cost of subliminally ‘othering’ an already marginalized segment of a minority community, while at the same time PSA’ing for peace and coexistence in this time of crisis.

What is most insulting to the intelligence of our society however, is that amidst all this brouhaha, only few have questioned the actual relevance of this new ban to the current state of our security affairs.

No eye witness report nor CCTV footage showed that any of the suicide bombers from any of the coordinated attacks across the country were on that day wearing the niqab/burqa/chador at the time of inflicting their terror. The men were in fact dressed in men’s attire, with faces completely exposed. It might serve to add here also that they weren’t dressed in traditional Muslim man garb either.

How then did the face veiling Muslim woman get pushed under the bus as the most identifiable sign of radicalism?

It is obvious that the government was cornered into passing this legislation, as was the ACJU too in having to support this move. While all communities have only their praises to sing for the exceptional work of the security forces in tracking down the attackers within only just hours, the country’s elected leadership was in dire need of respite following what many experts claim was a massive intelligence failure, a blunder involving the wrongful identification of a terror suspect, and incompetence in the handling of events overall. A distraction was desperately required. Something needed to give, and it just so happened that the niqab-donning Muslim woman was the easiest scapegoat.

To an outsider unfamiliar with Muslim religious symbolism, the face-veil can come across as alien, even unnerving. And while our first instinct is to otherize in an attempt to help deal with the discomfort of dealing with any unknown, a woman out in the street in a niqab is -for as long as anyone can remember- most certainly not an oddity that has compelled anyone to stop and recite their final rites.

The misguided belief that the face veil is a marker of extremism isn’t and hasn’t ever been based on any empirical research. If studies were to be carried out, results would show that Muslim women in general -let alone those with a face cover- have a little role to play, if any, for acts of terror committed in all the countries that have banned them.

Contrarily, there is a clear proven relationship between terrorist attacks and increases in recorded Islamophobic incidents against Muslims, with women being disproportionately targeted. One can then dare infer that being visibly Muslim carries a greater risk to oneself, than to the people around them.

The niqab ban has been put in place as a security measure they say – a flexing of muscles towards any semblance of radicalization that will deter any future acts of terror in the country. Naturally, the perpetuating of this ideological hegemony is doing Muslim women no favors. If anything, the ban is a wholly counterproductive one, in that it ostracizes an already marginalized segment of a minority community – a sliver of a percentage out of the 10% that is the country’s Muslim population.

If -as commonly believed- veiled Muslim women are being hopelessly persecuted, the ban will serve only to increasingly confine these women to their homes, under the control of the men accused of governing their lives, and further disconnected from being able to assimilate with society. Even more dangerous, there are studies which prove that having to live in an environment that is aggressively policed on the basis of belief is more likely to harbour radicalization.

Absurdity of the non-connection of the attacks with the niqab ban aside, this in itself should be a war cry for secular feminists advocating for everyone’s basic right to the civil freedoms of a liberal society. Where now are the proponents and ambassadors so wholly soaked in the ‘Muslim woman saviour complex?’ A segment of Muslim women has been forbidden from wearing what they feel best represents their Sri Lankan Muslim identity. They were not consulted before this legislation was passed, nor were they given the chance to show their willingness to cooperate on instances where identification was required.

Ludicrously, discourses surrounding veiled Muslim women are paradoxically lobbed back and forth according to the convenience of the times. In times of world peace, they are oppressed and subservient to patriarchal whims and fancies, while in the immediate aftermath of a terror attack there are hostile and threatening, capable of devising all kinds of evil. They are either victims of violence or the perpetrators of it.

This age-old preoccupation with Muslim women’s attire is in actuality a gross conflation of conservatism with extremism. In claiming that a strip of cloth holds the answer to combatting a severe global threat is trivialising the greater issues at hand. If there was a direct correlation between the attacks and veiled individuals, legislation forbidding the covering of the face in public would be wholly justified. But there is none.

Muslim women shouldn’t be faulted for the cracks in the state’s china. In not being able to answer the hard questions of accountability, lapses in acting on available intelligence, and general good governance, those at the top should leave well alone and consider hiding their faces instead.

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