The Muslim Community is in a state of emergency, but in it lies our greatest opportunity
They say that humanity only really learns the most earnest of lessons in a state of crisis, a state of complete breakdown. Only after facing that breakdown, are we then capable of embracing the breakthroughs necessary that have largely been neglected. It is when we are at the cliff edge, in the emergency of the situation we find humanity is able to effect the kind of changes where there was resistance before.
Brothers and sisters we are facing this very scenario. If we are to analyse various aspects of the British Muslim livelihood, it seems to be under attack. In the depth and breadth of Islamophobia, our every ritual, character and identity is frequently and thoroughly demonised. Even more so now, with the latest counter-terrorism laws in various western nations, normal human characteristics are seen as suspicious if borne by a Muslim.
Simultaneously, we have seen the Government marginalise legitimate grass-roots Muslim organisations, whilst financially and politically aiding organisations with no grass roots support whatsoever. A similar dynamic is at play in the US.
We normally think of Islamophobia as a disorganised effort. At most, we may see it, if in any organised fashion, as the constant pushing of certain narratives in the media. In fact, as we have seen in various studies into this social phenomenon, it is a real organised industry, with assigned jobs, roles and financial supporters. This web of hate of preachers, power brokers, ideologues and their backers are mainly mapped in the US. Nathen Lean’s “The Islamophobia Industry” and Fear, Inc. 2.0 addresses most of that research. We have yet to see a similarly comprehensive research of Islamophobia in the UK and Europe. However, given the political trajectory of Europe, there is very little doubt that it does exist.
The effect of Islamophobia has been devastating to say the least. And yet, our response has been even more so. If the warnings our communities received from certain people to prioritise the tackling of Islamophobia seriously were not heeded, seeing their predictions unfold before our eyes did the job perfectly. In the UK, more mainstream politicians are calling for powers to shut down masjids under the undefined banner of “extremism”; religious slaughter is already banned in at least five European states; calls to ban the niqāb is growing strong in the EU overall; and the even zakāt, the compulsory paying of charity for those capable, is being demonised as governments accuse Muslim charities of “funding terrorism” with little or no evidence. In the US, the very safety of Muslim lives has been at risk since before the Chapel Hill shootings, made all the more problematic by the media’s dismissal of Muslim suffering.
It is necessary to comprehend all of this for one single realisation. The only way to counter an increasingly dangerous and more violent Islamophobic movement is to create a movement ourselves; one that not only demands a stop to Islamophobia, but goes further. We need a movement to demand the equality of Muslims both here and abroad, and an industry whose sole job is to propagate and legitimise that demand. Anything less would not be sufficient.
In addition, the great shift in prioritising the grass roots towards tackling this danger is also key. Without it, the institutions of activists, lobbyists and advocates would soon collapse under the constant and prevalent demonization in the UK. The need for mass support from Muslims is equally vital. As a result, every single Muslim, in addition to everything we do to make a living and practice Islām, must prioritise the cause of defending Muslims against the demonisation we are all facing.
If you are an artist, you must visualise, illustrate and convey the cause. If you are a writer, you must write about the cause. If you are in business, you must fund the cause. If you are a mosque leader, you must educate and empower Muslims for the cause. If you are in media or politics, you must advocate the cause. If you are a specialist in technology or social media, you must develop the tools necessary for the cause. If you are teacher, you must teach the knowledge that is necessary for the cause. If you are a mother or father, you must instill the values of justice in your children’s identity, so that they will never forsake this cause. And of course, if you are an activist, you must prioritise your time for the cause. Everyone must play their part.
In the emergency we find Western Muslims in, we have real opportunities to overcome the issues that we have neglected to address for so long. Out of necessity, we must unite across sectarian and theological differences, to tackle Islamophobia in all aspects of society. We must empower our masjids so that they become fully functioning community centres that support their Muslim and non-Muslim communities and instil a strong, positive and proactive Muslim identity. We must outreach and invest a stake into the local concerns of our community and not just focus on “Muslim issues.” We must create the ideas, tools, mindsets, infrastructure and leaders for our children to, not necessarily defeat Islamophobia, but be capable of fighting it. They will not have a chance otherwise.
Above all, we must be people of justice. This core value of Islām has lost its central role in our contemporary social fabric. We must revive this core Islamic identity; not just because it will transform and mobilise the sleeping Muslim masses; gain us allies among those who desire a civil, peaceful society or give Muslims the inner strength needed to weather this storm. Rather, we must be people of justice because we are Muslims and this is what Islām demands of us.
The biggest threat to Muslim activism, is Muslims ourselves. No one can help us, except us. The Islamophobia industry is in its end game. We must build the machinery that is needed to protect our rights. Our children’s future depends on it. We still have time, but none to waste.
Imran is the CEO of MPACUK and has over 10 years of campaign and media experience. He has worked with a diverse range of activist and Muslim organisations and specialising in grass roots activism and campaign strategy, 5 Pillars, PRESS TV & BBC Asian Network. His twitter handle is @imranshah884.