My name is Aamina Khan. I am a British Pakistani Muslim living in Edinburgh. I am a student at the University of Edinburgh and a member of the Islamic Society.
With the recent fire attack on Edinburgh Central Mosque, it is clear that anti-Muslim sentiment is present in Edinburgh. Due to recent terrorist attacks in Europe, there has been a surge of confidence given to rightwing fascist groups across Europe and in the UK to further stigmatise Muslims.
The media emphasis on the association of extremist groups (such as Daesh or the Taliban) to ‘real’ Islam has led to the belief that the majority of Muslims are only following what is called ‘moderate’ Islam.
This association of Islam with extremism seeks to demonise Muslims and perpetuates the notion of the ‘Other’ which isolates Muslims from non-Muslims in the west. Negative news featuring perpetrators who are Muslim draws attention to their religious association (although irrelevant to the crime), and has been successful in convincing the millions of viewers watching at home that Islam is a religion of hate.
What is also backfiring is the attempt by Islamic authorities to denounce acts of terrorism done in the name of Islam. By drawing attention to the crimes of extremist groups with blameless Muslims, this encourages the notion that extremism is an inherent part of Islam. When the Muslim community rises in defence to every terrorist attack that occurs, it is like we are having to convince the west all over again of our humanity.
What is assumed to be a ‘western criticism of Islamic intolerance’ is in fact anti-Muslim, anti-brown and anti-foreigner hate. Some may say that Islamophobia is not racism because ‘Muslims are not a race’; however, when the victims of Muslim hate crimes are also Sikhs, Hindus, and other non-Muslims, it is clear that Islamophobia is directed towards anyone the west deems as ‘Muslim looking’ – which in this case are Arabs/brown people.
It is a lot easier to be Islamophobic when the target is not an individual. If the attack had targeted a Muslim individual, the racist and anti-Muslim rhetoric would be clear to all. Attacking an establishment such as the Edinburgh Central mosque sends a political message. Some people may view it as a rejection of Islamic authority in the west, while others may think it irrelevant as no real harm was done. Consequently this attack, and this type of attack, garners less sympathy and is less noted amongst the mainstream media.
Nonetheless, Islamophobia is a racist, anti-Muslim rhetoric disguised as criticism of religious extremism.
Examples of attacks much like the one on Edinburgh Central Mosque suggest that there are some among us who reject Islam and do not welcome Muslims in the west. For many Muslims like myself, we question whether Islamophobia has risen due to recent events, or if it is the result of a lingering resentment which has been there all along.
The vigil on Tuesday 20 September outside the Mosque was a positive display of solidarity with the Muslim community. We must continue in this spirit to combat Islamaphobia.
Image: Kai Hendry