British Muslims observe Islamophobia Awareness Month  

“Over the course of the now month-long attack on the Gaza Strip, we have seen a surge of hate crime at home,” the MCB spokesperson said…reports Asian Lite News

Muslims in the UK are observing Islamophobia Awareness Month against the backdrop of the conflict in Gaza and “an exceptionally hostile political environment,” the Muslim Council of Britain said on Wednesday.

The negative political climate is “only further exacerbated by divisive comments from senior politicians such as the home secretary,” Suella Braverman, an MCB spokesperson said.

Braverman has described pro-Palestinian demonstrators who take to the streets of the UK in support of a ceasefire in Gaza as taking part in “hate marches.” And in a letter to senior police officers, she said that waving a Palestinian flag or chants that advocate freedom for Arabs in the region could constitute a criminal offense.

There has been an increase in violence against British Muslim communities in the past month, since the war in Gaza began, the MCB said, with police recording a 140 percent increase in Islamophobic offenses in London alone.

“Over the course of the now month-long attack on the Gaza Strip, we have seen a surge of hate crime at home,” the MCB spokesperson said.

“We have also seen Islamophobic attacks across the UK, including the attempted arson on an Oxford mosque in which the perpetrator threw a petrol can at the mosque that had ‘IDF’ (the abbreviation for Israel Defense Forces) scrawled over it; a man attacking a Muslim woman with a concrete slab in broad daylight; and alcohol being poured over Muslim worshippers praying at a protest.”

The head of London’s Metropolitan Police, Sir Mark Rowley, has said there is scope for “sharper” laws to deal with extremism and that he would support a review of the legal definition of the word, after his force was criticized for the way it has handled ongoing weekly pro-Palestinian protests in London.

According to The Observer newspaper, government officials have drawn up proposals to broaden the definition of extremism to include anyone who “undermines” the country’s institutions and values.

Civil rights groups fear that such a move would “criminalize dissent” and dramatically suppress freedom of expression. There is concern that a broader legal definition could be used to crack down on freedom of speech and penalize legitimate organizations and individuals.

Sal Naseem, 47, is an expert on inclusive culture and the former regional director for London at the Independent Office for Police Conduct. He has actively campaigned against Islamophobia after witnessing it first-hand while growing up in southwestern Scotland.

Any proposal that could limit free speech must be developed in accordance with the laws on equality and must not legally discriminate against any particular group, he said.

“Muslims are very much protected under the equality law in the UK, and what we are seeing now as a result of the conflict in Israel and Palestine is the rising tide of Islamophobia being peddled out, particularly in the right-wing media,” Naseem said, adding that narratives that routinely demonize Muslims are being touted and explored.

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