Attacks because of one’s faith or race, or any other identifying feature is unacceptable. It is dehumanising, and very often for the victim, traumatising. The perpetrators too, can be victims; victims of their own ignorance which is exasperated by stereotypes reinforced in the media and government officials. Instead of fighting stereotypes, and challenging xenophobia, our government has institutionalised xenophobia, a necessary ingredient for hate-crimes and manufacturing consent for draconian policies.
As such I was happy to see Theresa May and other neocons mourning the increases in attacks against the Jewish community, even though the claims which prompted Theresa May’s reassurance were from a study which the Institute of Jewish Policy Research slammed as “littered with flaws”, with the conclusions being “dubious”, “irresponsible” and “incendiary”. Nevertheless, it was befuddling to see the comparative silence on the rise of attacks against the Muslim community, not just in the UK, but across Europe. Instead, the rhetoric around the Muslims continued to assign blame to the Muslim community, calling on them to “do more”, and therefore reinforcing the far-right narrative that the Muslim minority is inherently to blame for every and any attack perpetrated anywhere in the world. It abhorrently played Muslims off the Jewish community, in a similar fashion to the political opportunism displayed in David Cameron’s Chanuka speech.
Key senior figures are clearly not interested anti-Muslim hate crime. Tell MAMA, headed by the opportunistic Fiyaz Mughal, was set up as a government initiative. Once the Foreign Office had published its 2013 report on Human Rights and lionised the fact that the Muslim minority had a comforting arm of the government cuddling the Muslim minority, Tell MAMA’s funding was promptly pulled.
Napoleon once said that there are only two factors which unite men: fear and self-interest
In an interview with the Standard and returning from his tour from Malaysia, Boris Johnson seemed to present a slightly moderate demeanour to the discourse on immigration. But as they say the devil is in the detail. Britain should have a welcoming policy towards working migrants he suggested, but it is part of human nature to be xenophobic and that those who were afraid of foreigners were “not bad people”.
Without getting into a debate as to whether xenophobia is intrinsically innate, it is well established that the usual motivators for xenophobia are among other things economic distress, increased nationalism and nativism, and of course pressures related to immigration. These are external factors, not innate ones, incidentally which are in the control of the present government. Furthermore, xenophobia is a tendency which can be very easily triggered.
The attempt at normalising xenophobia (xenophobes are not “bad people”) glosses over the seriousness of the phenomenon itself. Xenophobia is “bad”. To understand the gravity of normalising xenophobia, one needs to grasp the potentially violent manifestation of it.
Xenophobia is a phenomenon which involves prejudicial treatment experienced by the “alien”. It is an irrational fear in the context of people who are different in some way. In the present British context, the manifestation of this irrational fear towards the Muslim minority has become most acute. With reports of increased attacks on Muslims (in particular Muslim women), the discriminatory targeting through government officials and organs, coupled with research which highlights the Muslim minority as the most discriminated when it comes to job opportunities, it would be no exaggeration to say that xenophobia, epistemologically irrational and inherently, usefully deflective of “real issues” (corporate tax havens, government corruption/cover-ups, poverty), is most visible in the experiences of the Muslim minority of Britain.