Walking in to work I am prompted to show my ID. Even those who have worked here for decades and present local TV and radio programmes are instructed to prove their identity when entering the building. The fatal attack at the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris has left news organisations around the world feeling vulnerable. Suddenly, acts of terror feel closer to home than they ever have before. But what impact does this have on the average British Muslim trying to go about their daily life?
One of my best friends is Muslim and she wears the headscarf, or hijab, as well as the shoulder to toe loose-fitted garment, called the jilbab. I have grown up with personal and family friends wearing such traditional attire, so it isn’t something that stands out to me. However, after 9/11 I felt a palpable difference in how I was acknowledged in public when I was with her, or any other Muslim friend wearing a hijab. A few years later these attitudes seemed to dwindle. But more recently the attitudes are re-emerging.
Commonly, these are demonstrated through fearful or angry stares, people keeping a distance and sales or services staff showing the cold shoulder or arrogance. And all this because one of us is wearing a hijab.
What hasn’t helped is the growing attention on young Muslim women becoming radicalised. Namely, the three east London girls Kadiza Sultana, Amira Abase and Shamima Begum who flew out to Turkey allegedly to head on to Syria. This has left people like my friend feeling more vulnerable in public and feeling discriminated against.
And it’s not just Muslim women. Anybody who appears to be Muslim is often tarnished with the same brush. I have relatives and friends who wear a turban and they are compared to Bin Laden. Of course it’s down to ignorance of faiths or just lack of education, but it is worrying that such stereotypes exist in a ‘modern’ western world where religious education is compulsory in the national curriculum.
It may seem like a crude comparison but it frustrates me that so much media attention is given to anti-Semitic attacks yet there is little, if any, recognition of how Muslims, or Asians in general, are feeling the side-effect of terrorism: hate crime and discrimination.
I work in the media yet agree the media has a large role to play in stereotypes. But are we all that naïve and impressionable? Can we not judge characters in a rational, mature manner?
Ironically, it is these very prejudice attitudes that are aiding radicals to fuel their fire and infiltrate extreme views into those who have experienced discrimination. Hate is the biggest cause of terrorism. And singling people out based on their appearance is hate!
We aspire to live in diversity and multiculturalism, yet we view anyone ‘different’ with fear or anger.
Grow up Britain. Not every Muslim is a radical; likewise not every White person is fascist.