British Muslims worried about post -Brexit intolerance

Sunday 03/07/2016
A man wearing an anti-immigration T-shirt in Romford, England, on June 25th.

London - Britain’s shock referen­dum decision to leave the European Union raised fears of increased racism and xenophobia as the country deals with the bitter after­math of the Leave vote. Many Brit­ish Muslims expressed fears as the country gears up for months of po­litical infighting.
British Prime Minister David Cameron, who announced his resig­nation after the Brexit vote, told the cabinet: “We should be absolutely clear that this government will not tolerate intolerance… intimidating migrants, telling them they need to go home.”
Although British Muslims would not technically be affected by a change in Britain’s EU membership status, a rising atmosphere of intol­erance against foreign nationals and ethnic minorities is a major cause of concern.
Labour councillor for Butetown in Wales Ali Ahmed said he was told to “get out of our country” on June 24th, the same day the referendum result was announced.
Speaking to a Leave voter, Ahmed said: “He [the voter] said, ‘When are you leaving?’ and ‘Get out of the country.’
“I was in a state of shock. Forty-one years of my life have been in the UK and it’s the first time I’ve come across anything like this.”
Muslim Remain campaigner and former Conservative Party parlia­mentary candidate Shazia Awan said she received racist hate mail through social media following the vote. “I’ve not just had one. I’ve had an array of racial abuse,” the Welsh-born Awan said.
#PostRefRacism was trending on twitter after the vote, with Twitter users sharing stories of post-refer­endum racism. Ahmed and Awan reported the incidents to the police. At least 90 racist incidents were re­ported following the referendum.
The Islamic Human Rights Com­mission (IHRC) called on Muslims in Britain to stay vigilant and take precautionary measures following a spike in racist and Islamophobic attacks.
“This referendum has clearly unleashed division and hate on an unprecedented scale and while we urge everyone to concentrate on supporting the collective needs and harmony of our society we hold hate preachers, politicians and me­dia accountable for creating and legitimising this environment of hate,” IHRC Chairman Massoud Sh­adjareh said in a news release.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan con­firmed that he had put the capital’s police on alert for racially motivat­ed attacks.
“It’s really important we stand guard against any rise in hate or abuse by those who might use last week’s referendum as cover to seek to divide us,” he said. “I’ve asked our police to be extra vigilant for any rise in cases of hate crime and I’m calling on all Londoners to pull together and rally behind this great city.”
According to voting figures, Brit­ish Muslims were overwhelmingly in favour of remaining part of the European Union. About 70% of Muslims voted to remain and two-thirds of those describing them­selves as Asian — not just Muslims but also Hindus and Sikhs — voted to remain.
Immigration was one of the main issues of the campaign, with the Leave campaign accused of raising fears about the effects of immigra­tion on the country. Both the Con­servative and Labour parties were thrown into turmoil after the vote, with Britain facing the prospect of both a new prime minister and new leader of the opposition in the com­ing weeks. A general election could be called before the end of the year.
Political analysts described the Brexit vote as potentially a water­shed moment in British politics, demonstrating the extent to which British politicians are out of touch with the general public. While 52% of the general public voted Leave, at least 75% of MPs — across all major parties — announced their support for the Remain campaign.
“Clearly this referendum has shown that there is disenchant­ment, not only with the European Union but also with the way politics is carried out in our country. Our political leaders must now address these concerns in an inclusive and conciliatory way,” Dr Shufa Shafi, secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) said in a statement.
MCB, the country’s largest Mus­lim umbrella body with more than 500 affiliated national, regional and local mosques, charities and schools, refrained from backing either the Remain or Leave cam­paigns, although it called for all Muslims to vote.
“We have witnessed a campaign that has been divisive and at times has led to the scapegoating of im­migrants and minority groups. It is vitally important now that those in power must come together and heal divisions. We must also work hard to change the tone of our politics, to continue to be welcoming to those who are in need and to be an out­ward-looking country,” Shafi added.