The ongoing war between Israel and Palestine has cast a dark shadow over global relations, igniting tensions that reverberate far beyond the borders of the Middle East. Unfortunately, England has not been immune to the insidious ripple effects of this devastating conflict. Over the past few months, the nation has witnessed a troubling surge in Islamophobic incidents, directly correlated to the intensification of hostilities in the Middle East which has left over 10000 people dead at the hands of the Israeli Defence Force. This dangerous trend threatens the very essence of England’s multicultural fabric. Renowned for its cultural diversity and respect for pluralism, England is now grappling with the pernicious rise of Islamophobia, posing a significant threat to social harmony and the fundamental rights of its Muslim population.
Recent marches held in solidarity with the plight of the Palestinian population of Gaza have seen hundreds of thousands of protesters march through London, with further marches planned. Worldwide marches have witnessed crowds of millions regularly protesting against Israel’s bombardment of Gaza.
These marches in London have been condemned by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who took the opportunity to reiterate his unconditional support for Israel. He also expressed his support for the British Jewish community, posting on X (formerly Twitter), “I stand with you, the British Jewish community, and I will do everything I possibly can to protect you. To those trying to stir up tensions online and on our streets with intimidating behavior and shameful antisemitism, I say this: Not here. Not in Britain. Not in our country.”
Two days later, during a visit to a Jewish School in London, the Prime Minister said, “I’m determined to ensure that our Jewish community feels safe on our streets. There is no place in our society for antisemitism, and we will do everything we can to stamp it out wherever it happens. I stand with all of you, the Jewish community, not just today, but always, and I really mean it.”
Echoing the Prime Minister, Home Secretary Suella Braverman chose to describe the protests attended by hundreds of thousands of people as “hate marches.” She justified this by pointing out that some protestors were chanting “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” which she equates with the desire for the destruction of the state of Israel. She further posted a warning to the protesters on X, “To all those who saw fit to promote genocide, glorify terrorism, and mock the murder of Jewish people, including women and babies – the police are coming for you.” Indeed, Braverman has repeatedly expressed her solidarity with the Jewish community at every available opportunity.
Moreover, in the concluding remarks of her social media post on October 12th, she alluded to this being a matter of ‘Islamist terrorism’. Her statements have raised significant concerns, particularly given her high-ranking position with the British government . It is expected that she comprehends the potential ramifications of her words and thus should maintain a higher level of professionalism, which is currently lacking. Instead, she ought to focus on fostering unity within communities rather than contributing to division.
Neither the Prime Minister nor the Home Secretary has mentioned the alarming rise in Islamophobic attacks. It must be questioned why there is a specific focus on one religious community and complete neglect and silence towards another, which is also facing attacks.
So divisive a figure is Braverman that the deputy editor of the Daily Mirror wrote in an editorial, “We have a hate preacher in Government in Suella Braverman. We have a gaslighter-in-chief, not a Home Secretary. Since this column identified her as the most dangerous politician of her time, Braverman has metastasized into exactly that.” Even the former Conservative Party chairwoman, Baroness Warsi, labeled Braverman as “dangerous.”
As of March 2023, a Home Office report revealed how the Muslim community has been the most targeted religious community in terms of hate crimes within England and Wales. The report highlighted how religiously motivated hate crimes against Muslims had increased by 39% over this 8-month period.
On October 8, a pig’s head was placed outside the site of a proposed mosque in the market town of Barnoldswick.
A mosque in Surrey was the target of an attempted arson on October 18. Surrey police revealed that around 1:45 am, the suspect approached a wooden door with what they believe was an instant-lighting BBQ bag. Thankfully, the fire did not take hold nor cause significant damage.
Furthermore, in a 2-week period, two London mosques, Masjid Zaytuna, and Acton Mosque were targeted. Both mosques had red paint thrown over their main gates, likely meant to resemble blood. A CCN source was told by figures within the community that these attacks were “upsetting and frightening for the local community.”
The Daily Mirror reported a horrific attack on a young Muslim woman in Dewsbury on October 26. CCTV footage shows how the young lady was standing by the side of the road when a man wearing a hooded garment is seen running towards her from the opposite side of the road. In his hands, he holds a large paving slab. He then hurls the slab at the woman’s head from a short distance.
Fortunately, the woman narrowly avoids the incoming slab, quickly seeking refuge with two passersby. She clutches her head in pain while another bystander emerges from a nearby shop. Meanwhile, the assailant, dressed in a black coat and trousers, calmly walks away with his hands tucked in his pockets.
West Yorkshire Police confirmed their knowledge of the recording and informed that a 57-year-old man has been apprehended in relation to the incident. They emphasized that they are treating the matter “extremely seriously.” The police also stated that investigations are currently underway.
These hate crimes against Muslims have become distressingly common, fueled by distorted media narratives and misinterpretations of the Israel-Palestine conflict.
Despite the verified rise in the number of hate crimes towards the Muslim community in Britain, the government has been silent on this issue. As the conflict in Palestine prolongs, the more the risk of rising societal tension will be inflamed by irresponsible journalism and the provocative statements of irresponsible politicians.
The consequences of inflammatory rhetoric and relentless false propaganda were tragically seen in America when a 71-year-old man in the United States was charged with murder and a hate crime for the fatal stabbing of a six-year-old boy named Wadea Al-Fayoume and the serious injury of his 32-year-old mother. According to the police, the suspect deliberately targeted the victims based on their faith and in response to the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas. Wadea was pronounced dead at the hospital, having been stabbed 26 times with a large military-style knife, according to an autopsy on Sunday, the sheriff’s office said. The mother had more than a dozen stab wounds on her body. She remained hospitalized on Sunday but was expected to survive. The Will County Sheriff’s Office in suburban Chicago confirmed the targeted nature of the attack in a statement on Sunday. According to text messages sent by the mother to the father of the boy, which were shared with Cair International, the largest Muslim civil rights organization in the US, when the woman opened the door, the landlord attempted to choke her, then stabbed her, yelling: “You Muslims must die!”
It is crucial to acknowledge that the surge in Islamophobic incidents is not a happenstance occurrence but a direct consequence of the inflammatory rhetoric and biased portrayal of the Israel-Palestine conflict. The failure to differentiate between political disputes and religious identities has resulted in the unjust vilification of Muslims and Arabs, fostering an atmosphere of fear and mistrust within communities across England, which is having a corrosive effect on society.
The ramifications of this pervasive Islamophobia are far-reaching and deeply concerning. Muslim individuals and communities already face discrimination in various spheres of life, including education, employment, and housing, impeding their ability to fully participate in society. The psychological toll of living under the constant threat of discrimination and bigotry cannot be understated, as the mental well-being of individuals and communities is significantly compromised.
Authorities must not ignore the gravity of this escalating Islamophobia. Urgent measures need to be implemented to address the dissemination of hate speech and to ensure the protection of the rights and safety of all individuals, regardless of their religious beliefs. Educational initiatives, interfaith dialogues, and community engagement programs must be prioritized to promote understanding and harmony, countering the prejudices that have taken root in the wake of the Israel-Palestine conflict.
Media organizations also have a responsibility to uphold ethical reporting standards, fostering a balanced narrative that respects the diversity and experiences of all communities. England must actively combat the toxic ramifications of the Israel-Palestine conflict and reject the divisiveness that threatens its cherished values of tolerance and respect.
It is imperative that the British government takes immediate action to confront and dismantle the pervasive Islamophobia, particularly in the highest levels of government, that threatens to undermine its social cohesion and fabric. America has witnessed how, if left unchecked, the rampant Islamophobia, fueled by the toxic media and the inflammatory rhetoric by prominent personalities, can have fatal consequences. Certainly, the UK government’s inaction and inability to alleviate the fears of Muslims is unforgivable and shameful.