A MOTION defining Islamophobia and Hackney Council’s opposition to it, received a unanimous vote from both Labour and Tory councillors at a meeting of the Full Council on January 22.
Proposed by Cllr Humara Garasia, the motion described Islamophobia as –
“Islamophobia is rooted in racism, and is a type of racism that targets expressions of Muslimness or perceived Muslimness”.
The Council resolved to:
- Speak out against Islamophobia and its rise in recent years across the UK and around the world.
- Condemn all bigotry and any discrimination on the basis of ethnicity, religion, denomination or any characteristic protected by the Equality Act.
- Endorse and adopt the All-Party Parliamentary Group on British Muslims’ definition of Islamophobia.
Cllr Garasia in her speech, said:
The motion I am moving this evening, along with Cllr Woodley, recognises the working definition of Islamophobia, as set out by the APPG for British Muslims. Similar to and has been modelled on, the working definition of Anti-Semitism, as set out by The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, which I am pleased to say, Hackney council passed a motion in support of the definition in February 2019.
As evident, I am a Muslim. I am born and bred in Hackney, Proud to be a Hackney girl, but you will find people like me are often told to go back to their countries as it is, but then you also get to hear comments such as ‘These Muslim people bomb up places’ as I did two weeks ago when I was out with my younger brother.
Mr Speaker, talking about Islamophobia is never pleasant, and more so when you are a Muslim who has experienced Islamophobia as a young woman in the recent years of her life. Thinking twice before you decide to put on the Islamic long dress, having to research a place before you are sent there for work purposes, as you are afraid of facing abuse or discrimination.
It has become everyday occurrences for many Muslims to face islamophobia. From people not sitting next to you on public transport, moving away from you when you decide to read the Holy Quran on your phone, to discrimination at work.
My religion is of peace, my faith has taught me to love, care and respect all and everyone, including abiding by the rules of the land I reside in. Yet, we are still considered a threat to the British way of life, why? I don’t understand.
Perhaps it’s the media, where a study done by the Muslim Council of Britain found that 59 percent of headlines in the British Press portray Muslims in a negative light, where words such as paedophile, grooming and terrorists are used to describe Muslims. Islam is being misconstrued and utilised by racists to create fear and promote their agenda full of hatred.
The society we all reside in is loving, caring and respectful because I have experienced it living in Hackney with my family, my parents who migrated. If they weren’t accepted, I wouldn’t be here today. But the increase in hatred, misconceptions and scaremongering by media, right wing extremists and even politicians is damaging the true way of life in this country.
I am surrounded by diversity and multiple faiths, from synagogues, churches to mosques. I am lucky to be in this borough where we are committed to tackling all forms of hate and discrimination, as evident through our history of work, but we can’t ignore the rise in Islamophobia
Hence, why I am moving this motion today. The alarming increase in Islamophobia is greatly worrying and it is statistically still on the rise as the State of Hate Report, 2019 states:
The far right is tapping into political rage and discontent
In 2017, terrorists attacks have had a lasting negative impact on attitudes towards British Muslims.
And this was also evident when a UK based NGO found that anti-Muslim hate crime increased by 593 percent in the U.K. in the week after the Christchurch shooting of Muslim worshippers.
Mr Speaker, This is all evident by the Islamophobia and antisemitism we see today, and rightly so in July 2019, the home office made changes to the terrorism threat level system, to reflect the threat posed by all forms of terrorism, including right wing terrorism.
We cannot deny and ignore the concerns raised by Muslims about their experiences of Islamophobia, it is present everywhere.
I can say here today that I face daily anxiety when I take the public transport, and this has been a shared experience with other Muslims.
Do you know how it feels to think twice about waiting for a train at a platform, particularly when there is a rush and you are not so far from the yellow line, the thoughts that race through my mind… Humaira, be careful, you are wearing a hijab, someone might push you onto the tracks, keep your legs firm, have a look around in case someone does attempt to push you.
I shouldn’t have to be experiencing this or even have such thoughts, but unfortunately, I do. Every day, a thought crosses my mind, will I be pushed onto the tracks or the train because I am Muslim?
Mr Speaker, I have great hope we accept this motion tonight as it’s a step forward and furthers our borough’s work, and dedication to tackling all forms of hate and discrimination.
Cllr Caroline Woodley, in seconding, said:
It is no surprise to me to hear our colleague speak so eloquently of love and respect, but also of experiencing discrimination and of wrestling with fear.
I have had the privilege of hearing her speak on this matter before, following the terrible attacks on Muslims at Friday prayer in Christchurch in March 2019. In the days that followed, I could hardly begin to imagine what it must take, for a person of faith, to gather with others and pay tribute to those who were lost, and who were targeted because they shared that same faith.
And yet many of the people I see here today, came together in support, attending a vigil at the North London Muslim Community Centre, located at the heart of Cazenove ward.
Where only a few months before we had held a vigil with respect to our Jewish community and the terrible attack on the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. On those distressing days, we united, and we saw fear met by resilience, and by hope.
The Cazenove Road Mosque and especially the work of its community centre, is well known in our neighbourhood for opening its doors to people of all faiths and indeed of none. Its leadership is engaged in interfaith work, most notably its Muslim-Jewish Forum, and in valuable charitable work.
But at times its members have advised us – as their councillors – of their experience of Islamophobia, and of how they are perceived as British Muslims. We have heard of young Muslims dealing with name-calling and with having clothing pulled at as they pass down the street.
And we are all aware of how unhelpful it is for a primary political leader to dismiss the harm done in comparing those who wear the niqab with letterboxes and the like.
It is vital to take a clear stance here and now. To recognise the work of the all-party parliamentary group on British Muslims, that was established in July 2017, to build on the work of the APPG on Islamophobia. To acknowledge their resulting report and their proposal for a working definition as set out today.
This definition has already been adopted by:
– The Mayor of London / City Hall
– Local authorities including: Islington, Harrow, Newham, Brent, Oxford, Haringey and Lambeth
– The Labour Party, Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru and Scottish parties, including the Scottish Conservatives
This motion asks the council to resolve to speak out against Islamophobia, to condemn all discrimination on the basis of any characteristic protected by the Equality Act, and to endorse and adopt the all-party parliamentary group on British Muslims definition of Islamophobia. I hope you will all agree to adopt this motion.
Cllr Ian Rathbone spoke of the work of the Hackney Faith networks:
What we are considering this evening are parameters of behaviour, because sadly, some people do not seem to know the difference between respect and disrespect for the views of others, the red line in such matters. Sadly some do know the line and go over it deliberately because they want to express their hatred of others.
With a new mayor in 2016 we began a new era of faith working together and the establishment of a No place for Hate champion – carried out with considerable enthusiasm and skill by Cllr Etti – which has also helped the effort to maintain peace to our communities. Rather than erect barriers, we are lowering them down (bit by bit!) in the effort of seeking unity of purpose and joint action where we can do so.
I would like to thank Mayor Glanville for his support for this, and for his active involvement at times in the process of showing unity in our diverse Hackney community.
We come together as faith groups with the Hackney Faith Community Network – only set up five years ago – which has recently taken on more open public meetings, and dealing with the issues of the day like mental health and domestic abuse, supported by both the Council and by HCVS.
We also have the Jewish Christian Forum, and the Muslim Jewish Forum, with Rabbi Herschel Gluck playing a key role.
Hopefully our small efforts will trickle down to the wider community and result in greater harmony and peace amongst people, to show it’s possible, that we can get together.
However, having said all this, I have to say that this motion defining Islamophobia is unfortunately necessary in order to establish some parameters so some people know the boundaries of decency and respect – the same with the definition of anti-semitism the Council adopted last year (which was supported by the Tory Group and I hope they will support this motion too).
In a society where the current British Government has created a hostile environment, of almost hate against those from other countries, thus giving a signal to those with racial prejudices to be free to take action on their hate, we have to provide boundaries – beyond which it is unacceptable to go.
And so we will go on here in Hackney, developing our faith networks and showing that unity of people from all parts of our diverse community is possible and here, in Hackney, is a growing reality.
Cllr Sade Etti said:
I would like to say a big thank you to Cllr Humaira for bringing forth the motion and to the Cabinet member Cllr Selman for the great work she is doing within her portfolio.
We are very proud of our diversity in Hackney as we all know Hackney is a welcoming Borough where irrespective of our background we live side by side.
What we are doing is the continuation of standing together against any form of hate in line with Mayor Philip Glanville manifesto, ‘No place for hate in Hackney’. Supporting this motion would enable us to tackle the challenges being faced in our community and allow us to challenge any form of discrimination or other challenges faced within the community.
As the Champion for No Place for hate, I am very proud of our diversity, the strategy that has been put in place, working with faith leaders, celebrating values shared between religions. We have passed two motions, condemning hate crime and adopting the IHRA definition of antisemitism in February 2018.
Every voice deserves to be heard – this motion deserves to be adopted and I support the motion. There is no place for hate in Hackney.
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