We must challenge Islamophobia at universities

Almas Talib explains the significance of Islamophobia Awareness Month in the wake of Donald Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric and post-Brexit hate crimes.

Islamophobic incidents in the UK are increasing. Following the EU referendum, incidents of race and religious hate crime rose by 41%. The Islamophobic rhetoric seems to be gaining momentum worldwide from the countless terrorism related headlines in the UK, to the many statements made by, now president elect, Donald Trump. It’s no lie that Muslims have been having their fair share of bad publicity. It all seems fun and games when the media reports that Muslims want to ban Christmas or are selling ‘halal bread’ (what even is that) to fund terrorism. Because of course, considering the political climate, banning Jane from uttering ‘Deck the halls’ and frequenting halal bakeries is number one priority for all Muslims. This only feeds into a larger pool of Islamophobic ideas that start to seep into racism experienced in society, with the worst affected being those who are ‘outwardly’ Muslim- especially the hijabi or niqabi Muslim woman. Policies are influenced, our general view of living, breathing Muslims changes. Soon what started as seemingly harmless, almost laughable misinformed ideas, becomes fuel for conflict and politics. As a Muslim living in the West currently, it is increasingly difficult to believe that our society is tolerating and accepting of the Muslim community.

Thus we mark November as Islamophobia Awareness Month, #IAM2016. In solidarity with the Muslim students at the University and for awareness of the wider discrimination that is taking place we are making Islamophobia known as a current, serious issue in society. We aim to deconstruct and challenge stereotypes about Islam and Muslims. We challenge you to rethink your judgement of the violent, backward Muslim man and the repressed, submissive Muslim woman. We encourage people to see Muslims as functioning members of society. The fact that we have to campaign for this only reinforces the extent of the problem. Everyone should have the same basic rights as every human, including the protection from unnecessary surveillance and suspicion (here’s to Prevent). By hearing the voices of Muslims and getting a glimpse at our experience, we can help build empathy between us all. Ultimately, through this we can quickly identify and more easily diminish the injustices occurring. Society works on trust, not policing, and the faster we get to know each other, the better.

This article is part of a series of Islamophobia Awareness Month pieces.

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