Islamophobia Awareness Week at KCL

This week sees the opening of the KCL Islamic Society’s Islamophobia Exhibition, the first of many workshops and events to mark the first observation of Islamophobia Awareness Month by the College.

Hareem Ghani, the NUS Women’s Officer and KCL History student, has partnered with the KCL Intersectional Feminist Society to present the Gendered Islamophobia event ‘Muslim Women in the West’. The event, now in its third year, will take place at the Stamford Street Lecture Theatre on Tuesday 14th November.

The first Gendered Islamophobia event took place two years ago at King’s College London, and, speaking to Roar, Ghani expressed her delight at its return to the College: “I feel it is significant to highlight the similarities in conversations happening within and outside of Muslim communities,”  Despite this, Ghani also drew attention to the fact that “nothing is being done by lobbying bodies” something which she is keen to change.

The Gendered Islamophobia event means a great deal to Ghani, as she expressed the issue as “something which affects my community: my friends, my family on a day-to-day basis.” In an arena where, arguably organisations like Student Rights from the Henry Jackson Society are working, as Ghani notes, to “label and target Muslim individuals as Islamist”, there seems to be much work to do by way of ending such discrimination.

With Press Association figures noting that between 2016 and 2017, targeted attacks on mosques doubled, and the Islamophobia watchdog ‘Tell MAMA’ stating the majority of the British public interviewed feel as if Muslims do not share ‘British Values’, Islamophobia Awareness Month seems more important now than ever.

Yet, looking deeper at the nuances of anti-Muslim sentiment in the UK is important for Ghani in bringing this issue to the forefront of our minds.

Ghani first began the Gendered Islamophobia Tour in order to highlight ways in which ‘Islamophobia impacts different intersections within the Muslim community’. The importance of being ‘visibly’ Muslim is often a source of derision for Muslim women in particular. Indeed, 60 % of Islamophobic attacks in public were targeted at women over the past year. Muslim women also appear the most disadvantaged in terms of workplace inequality: “They faced the greatest pay gap of 22.4% compared to their white Christian counterparts and were 71% more likely to be unemployed even with the same degree and language skills.”

The endemic sense of suspicion surrounding Islam is a large part of the problem, as Ghani states: “Muslim activists, Muslim communities and Muslim organisations are being held to a different standard than their non-Muslim counterparts”.

But how can we all do our part to dismantle ingrained, systemic prejudices that lie at the heart of society? Ghani believes that this can often be aided through reconfiguring our very understanding of Muslim people, and perhaps ways in which we conjure caricatures of “The Muslim man as the sexist or the homophobe” and “The Muslim woman meek and oppressed”. Moving away from media frenzy and understanding how damaging stereotypes affect the wider community are crucial. Ghani feels that this fuels many of the “fears and anxieties” that face Muslims in the UK; particularly when it comes to “engaging with politics as a whole”. She noted that it is time for an “honest conversation about what it means to be a Muslim in British society today.”

As Islamophobia Awareness Month at KCL continues, events such as these seem imperative for us to realise just how Islamophobia can be neither tolerated nor viewed, as an ‘isolated’ form of discrimination, but one that affects, as Ghani asserts, ‘race, class, and gender’.

For more information on the KCLSU’s events for Islamophobia Awareness Week, click here.

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