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Comment from Qari Asim: Muslims are the New Scapegoats

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As Trump closes the doors of the US to Muslims with his travel ban, British Muslims have opened the doors of their mosques to welcome everyone -irrespective of faith, belief, background and age.

This week has seen some of the largest marches in recent history, across the world, against Donald Trump’s executive order to temporarily block travel for immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries- Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen. It also stopped the admission of all refugees to the US for 120 days. The weeklong protests are preceded still by the global Women’s March, immediately following Trump’s inauguration day.

The #MuslimBan order is bigoted and discriminatory; it is encouraging that a federal judge in Seattle has temporarily suspended the executive order. Trump’s fierce attempt to overturn the legal decision is disappointing. The order has resulted in fear, anxiety and stigmatisation of many families and homes because of their religion. The executive order is not only a full-frontal assault on the civil rights of Muslim citizens in the US, it is a dangerous and self-defeating policy. It purports the attacks of 9/11 as a rationale for such a replusive ban, whist exempting the countries of origin of all the hijackers who carried out that plot. However, no citizens from those war torn seven countries has ever committed terror on US soil. Terrorism doesn’t have a nationality; Since 9/11 more Americans have been killed by home grown right-wing extremists than by terrorists from any Muslim country.

The Muslim travel ban is insulting, divisive and regressive to say the least. The timing of the order is ironic as it was issued on the eve of holocaust memorial day. Holocaust did not begin with gas chambers, but with a culture of hate, the crime of indifference and conspiracies of silence. The treatment of Muslims parallels with how Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi persecution were treated in the 1930s and 1940s are obvious. The prevailing rhetoric about Muslim refugees is identical to that used to demonize Jews during the World War II. The Daily Mail’s 2015 cartoon showing Muslim refugees as rats perfectly tracked a 1939 cartoon in a Viennese newspaper depicting Jews the same way. Prince Charles, in an address this week, said the lessons of World War II were in “increasing danger” of being forgotten.

The counterproductive travel ban is a gift to the extremists – both ISIS and ultra-right nationalists. Only a few hours after Trump’s order of ‘Muslim Ban’ came into effect, the Islamic Centre of Victoria in Texas was burned to the ground. The deadly shooting at Quebec City Islamic Cultural Centre, resulting in the brutal murder of six Muslims is shining a light on the ugly truth of Islamophobia that Muslims have to experience. These attacks are not isolated incidents. Many mosques in the UK and across Europe have been attacked in recent years. Violent attacks such as these highlight the critical importance of combating anti-Muslim hatred which is being promoted by the far right in recent years by spreading misinformation about Muslims. Islamophobia has been legitimised by populist leaders in recent political campaigns. The British Government recognises the threat posed to places of worship including mosques, and last year announced a grant of £2.4m to help places of worship install security and safety equipment to prevent hate crime.

As the world feels under threat by ISIS affiliates, the Muslim communities not only feel threatened by ISIS affiliates but also by populist leaders and far right sympathisers – Muslims feel more vulnerable now than ever before. When populist leaders, including the President of the US, makes it acceptable to hate people, or bar people from entering the US merely on the grounds of their religion or identity, it is not surprising that Islamophobia is on the rise.

The outpouring of support thousands of people marching in their cities against the ‘Muslim ban’ has restored belief in humanity. Exposing the ill thought out policy of Trump and the sharing of immigrant stories by thousands have been heart-warming. Political and religious leaders, sports personalities, as well as celebrities issuing statements of support for Muslims, has been overwhelming. It was profoundly emotional and encouraging to see people of all faiths and none forming a human chain around a mosque in Haringey this Friday as a gesture of solidarity in the wake of a deadly attack in Quebec and Donald Trump’s travel ban.

At a time of increased concerns about a climate of hostility, mosques throughout Britain opened their doors last weekend (Sunday 5 February). #VisitMyMosque initiative is aimed at reducing misconceptions about Islam and Muslims in Britain. These events will also highlight how local mosques are helping their local communities and fostering communal relations. The senseless violence caused by terrorists, the slowly-creeping fascism, the politics of hatred and the ‘them’ -v-‘us’ narrative can only be defeated by communities standing together, protecting each other’s liberties and striving for the flourishing of humanity.

By Qari Asim, MBE
Senior Imam Makkah Mosque, Leeds
@QariAsim

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