Earlier this week, Martin Bashir, the BBC Today Programme’s Religious Affairs Correspondent, reported that there is increasing fear among British Muslims about ‘Islamophobic attacks,’ in ‘the light of the recent terrorist attacks.’
That sounded very odd; those terrorist attacks were planned and carried out by British Muslims against the rest of the population. The BBC voice was referring to the attack, now termed a ‘hate crime,’ by a lone nut-case at the Finsbury Park mosque. That is obviously now being lumped into all the rest, including attacks in France, Germany and Belgium, for the purpose of community relations. There is now also a case in east London of a British man committing that most vile and cruel crime of throwing acid into women’s faces. An act most often associated with South Asian men who’ve had their marriage proposals rejected. In India about 300 such attacks a year are reported, in Pakistan 160 on average and until recently such attacks were not treated as a crime.
Because of ‘recent terrorist attacks’ in the UK it seems that the Muslim community here is now in a state of fear. Dal Babu, a former Met policeman who now works for the Muslim Council of GB, said attacks on Muslims were not as high as reported on social media but he pointed pithily to, ‘A contagion of fear.’
After the mosque attack in June, Runa Begum, ‘A lone Muslim woman’, said Bashir portentiously, gained some notoriety by confronting Communities Secretary, Sajid Javid.
‘I had to drop my son off to school and that was scary enough to do.’ She told him. ‘I was like are there any precautions put in after these horrible events. As a mother I fear for my child, not just now but I fear for him growing up in this country.’
This week the BBC produced her again. Inside her flat we heard her offering endless breakfast choices to her young son, who turned them all down with grunts. Later she wept, saying she is afraid to go out and lives in total fear in case, ‘they might drive a car at me and hit my boy.’
She said he’s growing up in this country with a target on his back. Bashir did not point out to her that everyone in the country now feels like that. We all move a step more quickly when we see a white van approaching at speed. We are also mightily inconvenienced and put in fear whenever we enter an airport, a crowded bar or concert hall. The general feeling now is that no one is safe. But Bashir assured us that the government is determined, ‘That Britain’s million Muslims would be ‘given all the help and security they need.’
The feature, which had started with Babu’s sensible sounding words quickly veered off from examining his, ‘contagion of fear,’ to accepting it as valid, and blaming the rest of us in that society, which most of Britain’s nearly three million Muslims flatly refuse to join.
‘We are underestimating the problem,’ Babu said, and warned us. ‘We need to take a deep, hard look at ourselves and ask whether we are sleep-walking into Islamophobia, where Islamophobia is becoming the norm.’
He then began to chunner on about white British dinner table conversation, rehashing the words of Baroness Warsi when she warned the British against private anti-Muslim chit-chat.
Fear can be engendered by change, and all our lives have changed radically in the last thirty years. We’ve had Muslim mass migration to the West, reintroducing religion as a contentious issue to the British population outside Ulster, for the first time in three hundred years.
As of 2010, the EU was home to about 13 million Muslim immigrants. The Muslim share of the population throughout Europe has grown about one per cent a decade, from 4 per cent in 1990 to 6 per cent in 2010. This pattern is expected to continue through 2030 when Muslims are projected to make up 8 per cent of Europe’s population.
Huge changes have followed since 9/11 which introduced fear into every level of civic life, not known since the Second World War. Non-Muslims now recognise that the Muslim war on the West, fought on streets in Europe, is likely to intensify since the defeat of so-called Islamic State in the Middle East.
Naturally, some of us Brits who’ve always lived here, long for parts of the past and wonder if our lives will ever be the same again. We wonder these things secretly, in our heads, careful not to say such things out loud in case we offend the likes of Lady Warsi, Runa Begum and Dal Babu. Our fear of speaking has been the biggest change of all.