We cannot let this anti-Muslim outrage be used to silence debate.
Friday 15 March 2019 is a day I will never forget. Waking up to the news of the terrorist attacks in Christchurch hit many of us like a sledgehammer. Commuting into London for work with a fellow Muslim, we discussed the sheer tragedy of Muslims praying at their local mosque – their sanctuary, a place for solace, reflection and introspection – being gunned down by a white-supremacist terrorist in indiscriminate fashion.
Some of the immediate reactions were odious. Within hours, Australian senator Fraser Anning has produced an appalling statement blaming the victims. Others on social media congratulated the terrorist on his ‘achievement’ – some offered their appreciative comments on the Facebook livestreaming of his killing spree.
While utterly appalling, these reactions – vile representations of anti-Muslim hatred – did not come as much of a shock to me.
What did surprise me was the swiftness with which the regressive left weaponised Christchurch. Exploiting the terrorist attack to call out ‘Islamophobic’ commentators who are supposedly responsible for mainstreaming anti-Muslim tropes and fuelling hostility towards Muslim immigrant groups.
In reality, this was a coordinated effort to silence perfectly legitimate concerns; an orchestrated clampdown on the airing of reasonable grievances about integration, cohesion and how extremists divide different communities.
One British example saw the University of Bristol close down an event in which my colleague Emma Fox was due to speak. It was laden with irony: Emma was scheduled to discuss the findings of her report on how British universities provide a platform for extremist speakers.
The No Platforming of her was engineered by student-led mobs who slated her for being an ‘Islamophobic’ pseudo-researcher, with some labelling her employer, the Henry Jackson Society, as a ‘far-right organisation’.
These groups held nothing in reserve when it came to using Christchurch as a clampdown tactic. They advanced the view that holding a discussion on the scale to which Islamist speakers hold talks on university campuses was insensitive and inappropriate in light of events in New Zealand.
This debacle highlights a strengthening unholy alliance between the regressive left and Islamist extremists — an anti-free-speech coalition which uses ‘Islamophobia’ as a go-to term to suppress dissenting opinions.
A particularly worrying image I came across on Twitter following Christchurch showed a gun, modelled on the inscribed weapons used by the Christchurch terrorist, which included names such as Julia Hartley-Brewer, Allison Pearson and David Aaronovitch. It has since been deleted.
This is all deeply wrong. It is vital that people have the freedom to express their legitimate concerns – over social integration, community cohesion, female empowerment and sectarian victimisation.
Suggesting full-face veils such as the niqab and burqa are an impediment to social and economic integration is not ‘Islamophobic’. Indeed, many – including me – recognise them as a symbol of the female subjugation which continues to persist in certain communities. Female empowerment remains pitifully low within Britain’s Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities – two sizeable Muslim minority groups with stubbornly high levels of female economic inactivity and fertility rates.