Tory MP Philip Hollobone says he will refuse to hold meetings with Muslim women wearing full Islamic dress at his constituency surgery, unless they lift their face veil.
Some Muslim women say they are seeing a rising tide of hostility and abuse because of the way they dress. Two Muslim women were told to get off a bus because one of them was wearing a face veil.
Making concessions to racism inevitably results in an increase in racist abuse, violence and division. Only two weeks since the French parliament voted for a ban on wearing the burqa, the inherent racism in this move threatens an escalation of Islamophobia in Britain too.
Amnesty International condemned the French decision. John Dalhuisen, Amnesty’s expert on discrimination in Europe, said: “A complete ban on the covering of the face would violate the rights to freedom of expression and religion of those women who wear the burqa or the niqab as an expression of their identity or beliefs."
This undermining of human rights legitimises, and encourages, the dehumanising of a section of society. At the weekend the Lancashire Telegraph carried a report that worshippers leaving a mosque in Colne were subjected to a tirade of racist abuse by a drunken woman who spat on them in the street.
"Such incidents are sadly becoming more common,” said a spokesperson from the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), “they have been fuelled against the climate of increasing anti-Muslim rhetoric and hostility, in particular on the part of sensationalised stories by the media, demonising Muslims in the eyes of the wider public."
Islamophobia is the most prevalent form of racism in Britain today. This anti-Muslim racism has risen throughout Europe, and is closely connected with the 'war on terror' and government foreign policy. The harsh sentencing of the overwhelmingly Muslim Gaza protestors is one example of the lengths being taken to deter Muslims from voicing their political opinions.
The desperate attempts of the UK government to justify the war in Iraq and the military occupation of Afghanistan have led to increasingly vitriolic attacks on Muslims - which have, increasingly over the last year, also been taken up by the English Defence League. Assaults on Muslims are surely also more likely in a climate of negative and false media information, feeding the perception that all Muslims pose a terrorist threat.
The rise of Islamophobia in Britain and across the rest of Europe, driven by the ongoing "War on Terror" and fanned by the pains of the recession, needs to be confronted and pushed back.
As Yvonne Ridley, former Taliban captive and European president of the International Muslim's Women Union, said recently, “We are standing at the start of a street which the Jews were dragged down in the Thirties. The demonisation of the Jewish people in the Thirties began with cartoons depicting rabbis with grenades in their ringlets, to make them look subversive, to make them look dangerous and this is how it starts... and of course we know where this ended."
But she also pointed to reasons to be hopeful, such as the broad and united nature of the anti-war mobilisations and the protests in defence of Palestinians in recent times.
The Stop the War movement can be the crucible for a broad-based campaign to confront the growth of racist attitudes towards Muslims and rising governmental and state harassment of Muslim citizens. We must all come together in support of Muslims in Britain and across Europe.
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