COLUM­NIST — OWEN JONES

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Stand­ing up to anti-Mus­lim hate

It’s one of the most mov­ing mes­sages I’ve ever re­ceived. In his Mus­lim house­hold, when he was younger, “Gay was a proper scary word,” the stranger wrote. But his par­ents had watched me, as a gay man, op­pose an­tiMus­lim prej­u­dice on TV, and it chal­lenged their per­cep­tions. “It gave me the courage to come out,” he told me.

I’m not shar­ing this as an act of self- con­grat­u­la­tion but be­cause there’s an im­por­tant point here. Mus­lims to­day are un­der siege. The most pow­er­ful man on Earth gained off ice partly by whip­ping up ha­tred against Mus­lims, even promis­ing to ban them from en­ter­ing the United States. The Far Right are on the rise across Europe, too, and just as they once de­monised and made scape­goats of Jews, now it’s the turn of Mus­lims.

And there’s a striking sim­i­lar­ity be­tween how Mus­lims are treated and the ex­pe­ri­ences of LGBT+ peo­ple. Are we not the long- stand­ing tar­gets of me­dia out­rage, stereo­typ­ing us, mak­ing crass gen­er­al­i­sa­tions about us, por­tray­ing us as de­viants, threats to pub­lic health, sex­ual preda­tors, and a men­ace to chil­dren?

To­day, Mus­lims are rou­tinely picked on by the press, gen­er­alised as ex­trem­ists, po­ten­tial ter­ror­ists, an en­emy within — as well as the groomers of chil­dren. Anti- Mus­lim ha­tred stalks our streets, but, like with us, most in­ci­dents aren’t re­ported to the au­thor­i­ties.

Is it not our own bit­ter ex­pe­ri­ence to have abuse yelled at us in the streets, to be spat at, threat­ened, made to feel ashamed of who we are? Have we not long en­dured be­ing the punch­ing bags of main­stream politi­cians try­ing to climb into high off ice by tap­ping into the rich seam of big­otry against us? Wit­ness Boris John­son’s grubby bid to be­come Prime Min­is­ter by com­par­ing veil- wear­ing Mus­lim women to “let­ter­boxes” and “bank rob­bers”, know­ing how well it goes down with the grass­roots. In­deed, the Tories have tra­di­tion­ally been soaked in anti- gay prej­u­dice. Baroness Warsi — the Tories’ most se­nior Mus­lim woman — says Is­lam­o­pho­bia is wide­spread in the Con­ser­va­tive Party, right to the very top.

Our ex­pe­ri­ences are so sim­i­lar: baited, feared, hated and vic­timised. The same peo­ple who want to beat up gays want to beat up Mus­lims, too.

There will be those read­ing this who ask: where are all the Mus­lims speak­ing up for us? It re­minds me of the fi lm Pride, when LGBT+ ac­tivists cam­paigned in favour of striking min­ers, but many of those they were try­ing to help were re­sis­tant be­cause of en­demic ho­mo­pho­bia in min­ing com­mu­ni­ties. But the ac­tivists had a mes­sage of “an in­jury to one is an in­jury to us all”, and their act of sol­i­dar­ity trans­formed at­ti­tudes. To­day, Lon­don is the only ma­jor Western city to have a Mus­lim mayor, and

Sadiq Khan has voted for LGBT+ rights, in­clud­ing equal mar­riage, and faced death threats for do­ing so.

Hav­ing suff ered prej­u­dice and big­otry for so long, we have a re­spon­si­bil­ity to stand by those who en­dure the same. That’s what fright­ens the big­ots: sol­i­dar­ity among their vic­tims.

By speak­ing out, we can change at­ti­tudes – as hap­pened with the par­ents of the young man who wrote to me so mov­ingly.

“Those who want to beat up gays, want to beat up Mulims too”

THISIS­SUE ATTAMROU AL- KADHI MOBEEN AZHAR OWEN JONES DEAN A

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