We stood in solidarity with France, with Belgium and now Germany join the growing list of European countries that have suffered at the hands of religious fundamentalism. The military battle against Daesh rages on across the middle east in the likes of Syria and Iraq. The battle against the so called Islamic state rages everyday in very different ways away from the middle east. Whilst Trump, bigots and racists around the world spread hate and fear, it is ideas, acceptance and integration that will be the basis in which radicalisation can be stemmed in the UK and abroad.
Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, the chief of the Metropolitan Police, has said that a terrorist attack on British soil is a question of ‘when, not if’. As easy as it is to say normal life must resume its a horrifying thought that cannot simply be cast to the back of ones mind – will it be this train journey, this busy street or this sporting event where something happens.
The battle against such a threat in the years since the declaration of the ‘war on terror’ has manifested itself in two ways: the military fight abroad and the security fight at home. The ongoing battle in British society, and most western societies, is to not allow the ‘enemy within’ fear to build so all rational and level headed thought vacates the British psyche. Change to create a country of greater acceptance of Muslims and the cultures of immigrant families (be that 1st 2nd or 3rd generation immigrant) must come from both politicians and in local communities. That’s not to say communities are not accepting of British Muslims, far from it – the need is for British Muslims to be given a platform to voice their concerns, a media that is accepting of their faith and politicians who will not play into the hands of extremists by playing on the fears of the non-Muslim population.
Greater integration of Muslims into western society is exactly the sort of policy extremist groups are against. They want Trump and Britain First, not liberal polices and open arms. An anti-Muslim sentiment is what the likes of ISIS play on and propaganda is the tool in which some of the very few Muslims that have flirted with radical views may be motivated to pledge an allegiance. What better way of demonstrating acceptance of Muslims into society than those of the faith being elected into public office.
Sadiq Khan’s election win to be London Mayor showed the levels of acceptance that a young Muslim needed to encourage them that British society wants to include Muslims more and more. However, the election campaign showed all the signs of divide, hate and the intolerance of those that have thus far been unwilling to see a greater integration of British Muslims. The party of Government led a campaign that did its best to play on fears based on Sadiq Khan’s faith, not any actual evidence. The political game of the Conservative Party, Zac Goldsmith and David Cameron was nothing short of disgusting. Whilst Goldsmtih, the Tory candidate for London Mayor, claimed his opponent ‘provided cover for extremists’, the Prime Minister was claiming Khan had shared platforms with extremists.
Goldsmith wrote in the Daily Mail that Khan ‘repeatedly legitimised those with extremist views’: working as a lawyer upholding people’s human rights would have been a more adequate description. Khan’s story is an uplifting one especially for young Muslims: son of a bus driver and a seamstress who went to a comprehensive school is now sitting in the office of London Mayor. All that was forgotten by the party of government because of his faith. A faith that he shares with millions around the world who also condemn the actions of fundamentalists. Mohammed Amin, chair of the Conservative Muslim forum, even claimed ‘Zac’s attempts to smear Khan have probably increased our risks of suffering terrorism.’ Luckily London rejected the campaign and as, Owen Jones pointed out, hopefully those looking back at the campaign will react with the same disgust as people do with the Smethwick election of 1964.
On top of the Zac Goldsmith dog whistle campaign is the attitude of the British government, and large parts of the media, to the migrant crisis. At first glance the British government agreeing to take in 3,000 refugee children is the sort of acceptance and open arm thinking that will ensure hope beats fear in the battle of ideas against radicalisation. In fact none of the children that will be given refuge in Britain will be those that have already fled conflict and made it into Europe, as well as the scheme being spread over 5 years (meaning there will only be an average of 600 per year). In a letter to Cameron a group of 27 charities branded the British response to the crisis ‘clearly inadequate.’
There are thousands living in the now infamous ‘jungle’ at Calais who have fled for their lives from religious fundamentalism and violent dictatorships. Many of those that are at Britain’s gates are the ones that could afford to travel and many speak English. Many are the middle class of Syria: doctors, teachers, accountants and business owners. The head of the British Government’s response? He branded these desperate people as a ‘swarm’. A disgusting, dehumanising term which led to Harriet Harman to rightly remind Mr Cameron he is ‘talking about people not insects’. The migrant crisis presented the chance to show ISIS the accepting nature of British society. We will keep those, a large chunk of which are Muslim, safe and demonstrate how their is a place for those that seek safety. Instead we have failed to make a adequate contribution to give safety to those that desperately need it.
As well as the Governments failure to showcase it’s apparent liberal values, sections of the media have painted both refugees and high profile Muslims in a negative light. The Sun in October of last year had across their front page the headline, ‘ILLEGALS HAVE LANDED’ in reference to migrants who had landed at a British RAF base in Cyprus. The Daily Mail asked its readers, ‘MIGRANTS: HOW MANY MORE CAN WE TAKE?’. The UKIP supporting Daily Express in November dehumanised those seeking safety by claiming ‘ILLEGAL MIGRANTS FLOOD EU’. If those coming to Europe were white Christians then the language for sure would have been totally different, and Katie Hopkins would have never penned an article calling those in need ‘cockroaches’. Take the two cartoons below: one was published by the Daily Mail, the other was part of Nazi propaganda against Jewish people: enough said.
Only more recently after the attacks at the Bastille day celebrations in Nice, The Sun allowed former editor Kelvin Mackenzie, who gave the go ahead on the infamous Hillsborough ‘The Truth’ headline, to write an article demanding Channel 4 explain why they had a presenter wearing a hijab covering the attacks. The criticism by Mackenzie of Fatima Manji’s choice of dress was widely condemned by both broadsheet and broadcast media journalists. The Sun, however, decided to tweet the article with the headline ‘Why did Channel 4 have a presenter in a hijab fronting coverage of Muslim terror in Nice?’, which they subsequently deleted. The paper also failed to apologise for their columnists comments. Roy Greenslade of the Guardian was correct in his analysis when he wrote, ‘Whatever the reason for her mode of dress, it is intolerant to demand that she dress as others would wish’. Fatima Manji has risen through the Channel 4 news ranks and should be treated with the same respect as any other journalist. If Britain is the liberal western society its supposed to be it should certainly allow all women to wear what clothing they want, be that a Muslim, Christian or atheist.
There is a responsibility for those with the ability to influence attitudes and perceptions to ensure that Britain lives up to its name as a liberal western state. After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union there has been a sharp increase in reports of incidents of hate crimes and racial abuse. There is an urgent need for the government to encourage the introduction of all people from all religions and backgrounds to enter public office at both a local and national level. The media need to treat the vast majority of Muslims with a greater respect and make it clear it is the disgraceful actions of the few that is blackening the name of the majority. Acceptance and ideas may not stop any terror attacks that are currently planned for the UK, but scaremongering and fear will certainly not.