To understand what drives Corbyn’s appeal for ordinary Muslims is to understand the fears and insecurities they feel, writes RABBIL SIKDAR
How appropriate that the man who could most relate to that is the man who defends the community feverishly. Jeremy Corbyn has sparked huge interest in an apathetic community still bearing anger and resentment towards New Labour for the Iraq war.
Corbyn is an enormously principled socialist, anti-war and pro-peace. Defining himself as everything the Establishment is not, he’s won support. But he’s won enemies too.
He isn’t a left-wing firebrand, delivering speeches with rousing passion. Nor is he using the Muslim community for its votes by discrediting rival politicians as either being liars or zionists. In a nutshell, he isn’t being George Galloway. Instead he’s the quiet, humble and hugely impressive giant of a character who has set off like a thunderstorm in the Labour Party. And the rumbles are reverberating around the community.
Slowly but surely, it’s become contagious within the Muslim community.
As realisations of his policies on foreign affairs and Islamophobia have materialised, the Muslim community has largely (but not entirely) been supportive of him.
It is an incredible accomplishment on Corbyn’s part because the Labour Party is a soiled name in the eyes of many Muslims.
To understand what drives Corbyn’s appeal for ordinary Muslims is to understand the fears and insecurities they feel. They have experienced ceaseless scrutiny and criticisms, questions and demands for them to change.
Stripped of a coherent media platform, they have largely been unable to respond and often had unrepresentative voices like Anjem Choudary positioned as their spokespersons.
The anger of the Muslim community orbits largely around foreign policy. The Iraq war was a disaster. It created space for so-called Islamic State (Isis). Ditto the intervention in Libya.
Support for brutal Shi’ite militias fighting Isis overlooks the fact that they are simply a Shi’ite equivalent of Isis, brutally massacring innocent Sunnis where they find them.
Guantanamo Bay, drone strikes and support for brutal dictatorships have hugely angered British Muslims.
The West has often been complicit in, or utterly responsible for, creating the toxic environment in which Islamic extremism thrives.
Extremism is able to manifest itself through anti-Establishment, anti-Western rhetoric to demand a throwback to the socially stable times of the sharia law.
For ordinary Muslims in the Middle East, they are often drawn to that by their experiences, finding some sort of solidarity and meaning in that.
Within Britain, anger over foreign policy and a search for belonging driven by fierce bigotry and poverty can also lead to the same.
Since the July 7 bombings, over a third of Muslims have reported in a rise of Islamophobia.
Mosques are desecrated, hijabs are pulled and Muslim schoolchildren face bullying.
Fifty per cent of the Muslim community lives in the poorest 10 per cent of council districts, while 28 per cent of Muslims live in social housing.
The discrimination contributes heavily to the life chances of Muslim women as they are 71 per cent less likely to find employment.
Austerity has cut society deep but Islamophobia has torn the wounds open for an already bleeding community.
Tony Blair drafted illiberal laws such as extended detentions, secret court trials, extradition, surveillance of entire communities, racial profiling and other policies.
Innocent Muslims were constantly harassed and spied upon. Under the Tories, these acts worsened. The Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015 essentially forced those in the public sector to spy on their Muslim colleagues by watching for signs of radicalisation.
The Prevent strategy demands the same of teachers, asking them to scrutinise students for signs of extremism. All of this is based on dismantling the neighbourly bonds of trust and comradeship fellow human beings have with each other, criminalising Muslims as guilty before innocent.
Already they contend with media bigotry and now it is being drummed into people’s heads to see Muslims as threats.
Ordering teachers to watch out for signs of extremism is ludicrous. School is the environment where free speech must be championed and allowed to blossom to nurture young people.
If you suppress their voices, how are you aiding their development as a person? Surely it’s more conducive to engage them in peaceful discussions than force them to bottle up their feelings?
Muslims have tended to feel that they have been patronised like children, told to embrace and respect liberal values, only to see a mockery of these values made where it concerns them. And that is the back story behind the Muslim community’s support for Corbyn. It sees him as someone different from the rest, someone who stands for something different.
Blair and Cameron seemed like different shades of the same colour. Corbyn offers hope of a better policy on radicalisation and foreign affairs, one that listens to the Muslim community rather than stigmatising it from afar.