The terrible incident that occurred at Finsbury Park in London recently, where Muslims were subjected to a terrorist attack after prayer, sadly confirmed the fears which law-abiding Muslims have about the evil of Islamophobia.
I wrote then that Islamophobia as a prejudice was described by the Runnymede Trust about 24 years ago. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, Islamophobia means ‘intense dislike and fear of Islam or prejudice against Islam and Muslims’.
Those who promote Islamophobia try to justify their views by citing actions of terrorism which have no connections with Islam or law-abiding Muslim people.
At present, even if terrorism stops, Islamophobia would not end, because it is a form of racism. Although racism and religious prejudice are illegal, those who break the law by promoting Islamophobia often escape prosecution.
Prejudice against Muslims leads to discrimination in terms of jobs, social position and the defacing of mosques.
This form of discrimination even extends to the democratic process where the organisations of democratically-elected Muslims are damaged by people who fail to challenge Islamophobia.
Islamophobia is a dangerous and disruptive practice because it can damage community relationships. The public responds to the actions of their leaders and the application of the law. Unless our leaders declare publicly that Islamophobia is wrong and will not be tolerated, racists will continue to damage and destroy the lives of Muslim people, creating a society where conflict will replace the peace and progress that good citizens have worked hard to produce.
In this regard, it is encouraging that in May 2015 the Scottish Parliament debated Islamophobia. It is hoped that this is the beginning of the ‘speaking out’ that needs to come from our leaders to stop the Islamophobic actions of racists.
Foysol Choudhury MBE is chairman of the Edinburgh & Lothians Regional Equality Council