IT’S not just public racism we should be worried about, but also those sitting in indifferent silence, watching it happen.
And it’s galling when the silent spectator happens to be the authorities — part of a system that aggressively pushes racism through a language of passive rhetoric and seemingly gentle threats.
An incident that recently pushed this into light once again is an incident at King’s College.
An event was held on campus where a group of Muslim students, including a cousin of mine, were trying to promote positive views of Islam.
How did it end? Predictably, with a student being attacked. Two men aggressively abused and then assaulted her, pulling off her veil.
As the entire situation unfolded, security came some time later and then left before the police arrived within an hour. But the damage had been done. It revealed how little protection British Muslims now have.
What’s awful about that incident isn’t just the racism that was shouted in a woman’s face by those two men. It’s the hidden bigotry of the security who didn’t take account of the fears and welfare of the Muslim students as they should have. It’s the police who arrived when it was too late.
Had this been another student event, it all would have been resolved. My cousin had to call one of her classmates to try to help because security were not coming.
This is the same type of situation as when Muslims on trains and buses are abused while onlookers stay silent.
This is the product of institutional racism where the government narrative has convinced many in the British public that there is a problem among the British Muslim community.
Racism is often treated as some sort of failing among individuals who are ignorant and fearful. That’s what we are told as children. But racism doesn’t come from below. It comes from the top. It comes from the government and comes from the media. It’s an institutional disease. It’s not created by idiots on the train. It’s what feeds them. It hides behind the curtains but affects minorities in every way possible.
The fact that it’s never mentioned, the fact that no-one discusses the racism of the Establishment, is what drives it.
The government’s Prevent strategy is claimed to be about preventing terrorism but effectively suggests that there is a problem within the Muslim community.
It doesn’t outright label Muslims as extremists but enacts policies that project Muslims as the enemy within; from curtailing the civil liberties of Muslim activists, shutting down Muslim organisations and slashing the free speech of young Muslims.
It relies on the media to continuously denigrate Muslims with a stream of cynical headlines. Those same headlines that passengers on buses and trains are often reading when they ignore the Muslim being verbally barraged by a racist. No-one says “Paki” or the N-word in the media, but that doesn’t mean racism has departed. Crass generalisations still exist and it’s often relentless for Muslims.
The feeling of being under attack is the same feeling that minorities felt when they first came here.
This is why the racist shouting at the victim isn’t the problem — it’s a symptom. The problem is the silence in which the masses look at Muslims and the newspaper headlines and constant cynical government language that influences people’s way of thinking towards Muslims.
Islamophobia is toxic and it’s dangerous. It’s alienating and painful; to fear for your close ones when they’re walking through streets, travelling on public transport or in schools is a deeply traumatising experience.