Islamophobia Awareness Month
By Duaa Raja
23 November 2021
Did you know that November is Islamophobia Awareness Month (IAM)?
The purpose of IAM is to highlight the experiences and impact of Islamophobia on the everyday lives of British Muslims, meanwhile celebrating the contributions of British Muslim communities to society.
Islam is the second largest religion in the world and part of the Abrahamic religions along with Christianity and Judaism, which all share several fundamental beliefs. Islamophobia is the prejudice, aversion, hostility, or hatred towards Muslims: this includes things such as hate crime, street harassment, verbal abuse, and online abuse.
While criticism of Islam within the legitimate context of debate and free speech is not in itself Islamophobic, it may become Islamophobia if the arguments posed are used to justify or encourage vilification, stereotyping, dehumanization, demonization or exclusion of Muslims. Unfortunately, it can manifest even in some of the most highly educated environments. There are numerous known instances by managers, health professionals, highly-qualified people and government officials, to name a few.
The post Brexit and Trump eras have seen a substantial rise in racial and religious hate crimes. The scope and scale of Islamophobia is such that according to Home Office statistics, 45% of all recorded religious hate crime offences in England & Wales were targeted against Muslims, up until March 2021.
It should be noted that non-Muslims may be affected by Islamophobia too, especially those from BAME communities if they look a certain way that is stereotypically Muslim or have an Islamic-sounding name. Studies have also shown that CVs submitted under a non-Muslim name are three times more likely to be offered an interview than those with a Muslim name attached. Additionally, 50% of women wearing the hijab feel that they have missed out on progression opportunities because of religious discrimination and that the wearing of the hijab had been a factor.
The media also plays a massive role in public perception. For every 1 ‘moderate’ Muslim mentioned, 21 examples of ‘extremist’ Muslims are mentioned in the media. A study by MCB found that 59% of all articles associated Muslims with negative behavior and over a third of all articles misrepresented or generalised about Muslims.
Muslims in the UK
The first major influx of Muslims to Britain arrived around 300 years ago, as sailors recruited in India to work for the East India Company. Since then, growing demands for workers have attracted Muslims from communities all around the globe and recent asylum seekers and refugees due to war and unstable political regimes. Immigration into the UK tends to be of young adults who contribute to a productive workforce. A larger economically active workforce equates to higher national tax revenue, which subsequently contributes towards funding pensions and the NHS, for example, which supports efforts to combat the effects of the UK’s ageing population.
The British Muslim community is a vibrant and heterogeneous one, whose contributions to Britain are numerous and multi-layered. To learn more about Muslim contributions in the context of military service, scientific discoveries, democracy and more, please have a read through this very comprehensive document (click on the image below to download from Google Drive, it may take a few seconds to load as it's a large file):
In the context of building design, facilitating well-designed multi-faith prayer spaces and ritual washing in schools and offices may have wide-reaching benefits by celebrating diversity and inclusivity, leading to a better perception of Muslims and Islam. Studies have demonstrated the value of meditation, mindfulness, and contemplative practice in combatting stress, improving social and academic skills, and generally promoting mental wellbeing. The University of Surrey found that participants who engaged in mindfulness displayed a 58% reduction in anxiety and a 40% reduction in stress.
There was also a great lecture earlier this month, hosted by UCL Bartlett School of Architecture, exploring the role of creative architecture and urbanism in tackling accelerating Islamophobia and emerging ‘Mosquephobia’.
In the Industry
A combination of legislative change, Government and industry initiatives, Muslim community empowerment, and wider community engagement is required to resolve this societal problem. This includes educating people on the dangers of Islamophobia, racism, anti-Semitism, homophobia and other forms of hatred. This can also take place in the form of addressing religious, racial and gendered discrimination in the workplace, at all stages of recruitment, retention and promotion including use of name-blind applications, which Max Fordham previously adopted.
If you want to learn more, you can take a look at these further resources: