The tough reality of Islamophobia in Cambridge

An Imam and a mosque trustee share their thoughts on the abuse received for wearing a hijab and practicing a faith many still misunderstand

Source: Cambridge news

By Debbie Luxon, Community Reporter

This November is Islamophobia awareness month which aims to tackle the prejudices that UK Muslims often endure.

Some people lucky enough not to experience this abuse may think that Islamophobia is becoming a thing of the past. However, in March 2020, the Home Office reported that 50 per cent of religious hate crimes reported to the police between 2019 and 2020 were targeted against Muslims in England and Wales. That’s 3089 reported offences.

No other religious group in England and Wales came close to receiving that amount of reported abuse, antisemitism coming in at 19 per cent. The Home Office also reported similar statistics the year before.

Islamophobic attacks have also been reported to rise after recent terrorist incidents.

After the 2019 attack in Christchurch, New Zealand, Islamophobic attacks rose by almost 593 per cent, and after the 2017 Manchester bombings, attacks rose by 700 per cent.

‘We never used to use the word ‘Islamophobia’

“We never used to use the word. Now it’s something the majority of Muslims will have to face some time in their lives,” Shahida Rahman, an author and trustee of Cambridge Central Mosque, Mill Road said.

She added: “I grew up in Cambridge. Then we faced racism but not Islamophobia. It was ‘go back to where you came from.’ Nowadays its not where we’re from, but the religion we follow.

The entrance of the new eco-mosque built on Mill Road, purpose-built as a non-denominational space (Image: Cambridge News)

“From the early 2000s it became worse because of the incidents happening across the world”, referring to the attack on the Twin Towers in New York by Islamist extremist group Al-Qaeda and the ensuing war against them, their founder Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and later ISIS.

“It magnified Islam and brought it more attention in a negative way,” she added.

We looked around Cambridge’s stunning all-inclusive mosque

Usman Butt is an Imam (a leader of worship) for the Ahmadiyya Muslim community (a particular sect of Islam) across Cambridge and Hertfordshire.

He said: “We can’t let our religion be misrepresented. One teaching in Islam that is always present is that if someone takes the life of an innocent person, its akin to taking the life of the whole of mankind. Saving a life is akin to saving all of mankind.

“How could a Muslim harm another person? It’s against the teachings of Islam to do so.”

He said the media have a responsibility to portray a balanced perspective on Islam. He said: “We as Muslims share much in common with everyone.

“The phobia doesn’t help us integrate into society and identify these commonalities. That’s why practising what we preach of peace and community work is the best form of educating the people around us, wherever we live.”

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