x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

'Looking Muslim' is not an offence

We need more people to stand up and challenge the openness in hostility to those who "look Muslim".

In the US, a small business is manufacturing pork-laced bullets. "Jihawg Ammo is certified 'haraam', or unclean," says the website. "According to the belief system of the radical Islamist becoming 'unclean' during Jihad will prevent their attaining entrance into heaven."

There's just one word to describe this: dumb.

Despite the idiocy of the claim (pork contact doesn't damn anyone to hell), what's frightening is that the openly expressed hate-filled sentiments against Muslims are part of a wider trend.

Even if you were crazy enough to purchase the piggy bullets, how would you know if someone is Muslim? Force Muslims to wear the equivalent of the yellow star forced on Jews in Nazi Germany?

I guess that they'll be used on people who "look Muslim". Because this is the latest danger: looking Muslim.

Once, we used to joke about the difficulties of "flying while Muslim", referring to the additional security checks and border control that Muslims routinely face, along with dirty looks from fellow passengers.

Having a "Muslim-sounding" name can land you in trouble, from checks on bank accounts to discrimination in job applications. Now, simply "looking Muslim" is a perilous activity that can lead to suspicion, hatred, violence and even death.

A pregnant Muslim woman in Paris miscarried after she was kicked in the stomach. A woman in a headscarf in Germany was stabbed 18 times in a courtroom. A 75-year-old man was stabbed to death while returning from prayers at a mosque.

Immediately after the Woolwich attack in London, the BBC's political correspondent said he'd been told the attackers were of "Muslim appearance".

The US secretary of defence, Chuck Hagel, asked a professor of Indian origin: "You're not a member of the Taliban are you?"

"Looking Muslim" equates to being a terrorist.

That terrorists always "look Muslim" is a view being perpetuated by the FBI. In a series of recent bus advertisements, pictures of 16 wanted suspects - mostly brown and black - were captioned "faces of global terrorism".

This is a visual echo of the bigoted and factually inaccurate mantra: "Not all Muslims are terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslim."

The facts suggest otherwise. In the FBI's most recent data (for 1996-2005) only 6 per cent of terrorist acts were deemed "Islamic terrorism".

More recent data from Europol about the EU shows that from 2006 to 2011 only 24 per cent of terrorism-related arrests and detentions were "Islamic". Out of 2,313 terrorist incidents, only 55 Muslims were found to be directly related to terrorist attacks during that period. According to their EU Terrorism Situation and Trends report, in 2011 "not one religiously inspired terrorist attack on EU territory was reported".

Last year, out of 219 attacks on EU territory, only six were "religiously inspired".

There is hope that bigotry in the face of the facts can be challenged. Commenting on the FBI adverts, US Representative Jim McDermott expressed concern they would exacerbate the trend of hate crimes against Middle Eastern, South Asian and Muslim-Americans. The FBI has pulled the advertisements.

We need more people to stand up and challenge the openness in hostility to those who "look Muslim", a description that can be stretched to cover anyone who is "other". If we don't, then we will find that simply "looking Muslim" could get you killed, with or without pork-laced bullets.

 

Shelina Zahra Janmohamed is the author of Love in a Headscarf and blogs at www.spirit21.co.uk