In the second installment of our series, we’ll discuss the Muslim population in the United Kingdom and the efforts made to combat discrimination. Additionally, we’ll explore academic research, the reporting of hate crimes, promoting diversity, and combating biased and misleading news about Islam.
According to data from the UK’s Office for National Statistics, out of a population of 67 million, 33 million identify as Christian, and 23 million consider themselves atheists. About 47% of the 3 million Muslims in the UK are native-born, while the remaining 36% are from the Middle East and Asia, and 10% from Africa.
Before delving into the efforts to combat discrimination, let’s briefly touch upon the challenges and discrimination faced by the Muslim population in the UK, as reflected in research reports.
According to the 2017 European Islamophobia Report, hate crimes targeting Muslims have increased in recent years, encompassing not only physical attacks but also threatening language and behavior. Furthermore, the unregulated use of social media has fueled hate speech and false narratives, exacerbating discrimination. In the UK alone, there has been a reported 40% increase in hate crime convictions in a single year. So, what is being done in this atmosphere of heightened prejudice and discrimination to foster unity and understanding within society?
Tell Mama Projesi
Given the need to report, record, and analyze incidents of hatred and anti-Muslim sentiment, the Tell Mama Project was established. This platform serves the purpose of accurately and reliably documenting such incidents and aims to provide support and a voice for victims and witnesses.
The project also responds to anti-Muslim and divisive posts on social media and in the press using various methods. For example, on Saint George’s Day, a holiday often celebrated by far-right groups and associated with xenophobia, Tell Mama distributed T-shirts that appeared plain but revealed an image of Saint George (who was originally Syrian, Turkish, and Greek) when body heat caused the design to show. The project’s statement on this initiative reads:
It is an ironic day when it has been hijacked by far-right groups as a symbol of xenophobia. In truth, Saint George was born in Turkey, then part of the Byzantine Empire, and became a Roman soldier and Christian martyr who is venerated as a saint. So, we want to promote diversity rather than division on this day and we hope that these color-changing t-shirts will help to do that.
Additionally, they initiated a campaign called #defendDiversity on social media, celebrating and embracing diversity. They also created a YouTube video specifically for this occasion.
Muslim Council Of Britain
The Muslim Council of Britain is the UK’s largest and most diverse national Muslim organization, uniting over 500 members, including mosques, schools, charities, and professional networks. Established in 1997, this council plays a unifying role, bringing together various Muslim groups. Let’s take a look at some of its activities:
- Their websites offer valuable resources, including demographics of Muslims in the UK, information about mosques, sermons (khutbas), and research on British Muslims or terrorism.
- Moreover, they publish reports on their findings, such as media research on Islam and Muslims and recommendations for the improvement of mosques in the UK. They share these reports with the public, promoting awareness and understanding.
Now, let’s talk about the Visit My Mosque initiative:
This project began in February 2015 with 20 participating mosques and aimed to encourage non-Muslims to visit their local mosques, ask questions about Islam, modesty (hijab), and religious practices. Due to high demand, over 200 local mosques joined the project. This initiative dismantles the ‘stranger’ perception and barriers between Muslim neighbors and non-Muslims, spreading hope for mutual understanding and unity within the community.
#visitMyMosque Day 2019 had a theme: “Islam and the Environment.” Volunteers from the mosques worked with Keep Britain Tidy, a UK environmental charity, to clean up their neighborhoods for a cleaner environment.
Muslim Student Association
The Muslim Student Association (MSA) has been serving for 45 years to create a sense of brotherhood, teach and learn about Islam. It brings together Muslim student clubs in universities, providing a unified platform for various activities. Let’s see what they do:
- Each university’s student clubs have access to Halaqa (study) groups for learning Arabic, the Quran, Tajweed, and other subjects.
- These clubs organize gatherings where female and male students from different universities meet, interact, and enjoy activities. Basketball and football matches, camps, and barbecues provide an alternative entertainment platform for students.
- MSA student clubs also undertake mosque establishment and organization on their campuses, forming congregations for Friday prayers and Eid celebrations.
- During Charity Week, a campaign in collaboration with Islamic Relief, student clubs across the UK raised funds for disadvantaged children. This annual campaign aims to foster unity and solidarity within the community while providing substantial financial assistance to those in need.
- Throughout the week, students wearing special costumes stood on campus with donation boxes. These volunteers also held fundraisers and events, from football tournaments to bake-offs, to be recognized as the “student club that raised the most money.” In total, the student clubs raised an impressive €1,598,267 (approximately 9,891,390 Turkish Liras). Their efforts not only spread the message of cooperation and unity but also made a significant contribution to those in need.