There has been a noticeable increase in Islamophobia in Britain, revealed by a recent study from the University of Birmingham, which reported that 25 per cent of Britons have a negative view of Islam and Muslims. This figure does not necessarily mean that the rest have a positive view, as there is a large group of people who have no opinion or are neutral, but that is not necessarily positive or welcoming.
From my point of view, there are several parties responsible for this matter that should be mentioned, blamed, directly criticised and even prosecuted for this, namely:
- Boris Johnson and his team in government, the leadership of the ruling Conservative Party. Johnson, who began his electoral prominence years ago by attacking the "burqa" in order to attract the extreme right, has not explicitly apologised for his comments. He is close to figures known for their extremism, including Priti Patel and Conservative member Craig Whittaker who fiercely attacked Muslims on the pretext of not complying with the restriction measures to reduce the spread of the pandemic. Meanwhile, he remained deadly silent on Johnson's violations of the rules and he may have participated in violations himself.
- The media outlets associated with the right wing. A study for the Muslim Council of Britain on the local media in Britain and the incitement against Islam about a month ago revealed shocking results. It reported about 60 per cent of the media negatively portrayed Islam and Muslims, which is worrying to many, but it was not surprising for those who watch the continuous incitement carried out by politicians.
Studies have shown that Muslim students have a lower chance of getting places at elite universities, which are seen as the institutions that produce the country's political leaders. This is irrelevant of whether their grades are on a par with or better than their peers.
- The pro-Israel lobby. The continuous incitement by the pro-Israel lobbying institutions through the media, and the use of their relations to exclude and marginalise all those who sympathise with the Palestinian cause and justice there, reflects on Muslims who have a close religious relationship with Al-Aqsa Mosque.
- Western support for oppression and dictatorships in the Arab world. The Western governments' assistance to the repressive regimes in many Arab and Islamic countries, supplying them with weapons and spy devices, turning a blind eye to their lack of democracy and continuous violations of human rights, and even the use of intelligence agencies that lack integrity and professionalism in Arab countries to pursue activists and citizens in their countries, increases the gap and contributes to spreading a negative image of Muslims. This greatly impacts those working in political movements, beginning with the Muslim Brotherhood. Repressive countries demonise these movements as they pose a real threat to their hold on power if real elections were held, as was the case with the Arab Spring in 2011.
- Western governments refused to receive their citizens who had previously joined Daesh in Syria and Iraq. The intolerance shown by Western countries by refusing to take back their citizens who were involved with groups such as Daesh, including children and women who are blameless, makes these people time bombs or human shields in the hotbeds of conflict in Syria and Iraq and develops motives for extremism within them. This increases the chances of such organisations surviving and growing and carrying out violent operations that distort the image of Muslims.
These elements are not the only ones responsible for the increase in hatred of Muslims in a number of Western countries. There are mistakes associated with some Muslims and their failure to represent the values and morals of their religion in a sound and civilised manner, but this has less of an impact than the points mentioned above.
The West should be aware that impressing the radical right wing with their hostility towards Islam is harmful to their countries in the future – even if they achieve electoral gains in the present – because it increases the tension, develops the factors of hatred, and divides the countries that rose and progressed when they promoted coexistence, respect for others and preserved religious and personal freedoms for individuals.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.