Socialist Worker

Attack on two Birmingham mosques shows the need to take on state Islamophobia

by Tomáš Tengely-Evans
Issue No. 2618

The Masjid Qamarul Islam mosque in Birmingham

The Masjid Qamarul Islam mosque in Birmingham (Pic: Google Streetview)


Two mosques in Birmingham were attacked on Wednesday night in a sign of the rising racism against Muslims.

Ball bearings fired from a catapult smashed through the windows of the Masjid Qamarul Islam and Al Hijra mosques during evening prayers.

Naveed Sadiq, a local community worker, spoke to the Birmingham Live news website outside Al Hijra mosque. “Mindless thugs have driven by and taken a shot at the mosque,” he said.

“We have noticed that whenever something happens in the mainstream media, be it grooming or be it terrorism, we take the brunt of it.”

The attacks follow the arrest of Salih Khater, whose car hit cyclists and pedestrians and crashed into a security barrier in Westminster on Tuesday. Khater, a Sundanese-born migrant, is from Birmingham.

Azhar Qayum is the Midlands regional manager for Muslim Engagement and Development (Mend). “There is rising Islamophobia in general,” he told Socialist Worker. “And it’s not just what happened in Westminster—this happened in the context of Boris Johnson’s comments.”

Tory former foreign secretary Johnson said women who choose to wear the burqa look like “letter boxes” and “bank robbers” earlier this month. Various right wing and liberal pundits lined up to defend the odious bigot’s comments.

Azhar said there was a “direct correlation” between racism pushed by the mainstream media and attacks on Muslims. “For me Islamophobia is in this country stems directly from what people read in the media,” he said.

“In the Midlands and across Britain there’s been a rise in incidents of women attacked in the street. There was an incident in Leicester where people tried to post letters into a woman’s niqab—that comes straight out of Boris Johnson’s mind.”

Resurgent

When the likes of Johnson push Islamophobia, it gives confidence to the resurgent forces of the British far right. In June a mosque and Sikh gurdwara suffered arson attacks in Leeds a few days after 300 supporters of Nazi Tommy Robinson marched through the city.

Azhar said, “The whole campaign around Tommy Robinson has centred on Islam and Muslims and the far right people who attended the rallies were mainly chanting Islamophobic slogans.”

Supporters of Nazi Tommy Robinson and the racist Democratic Football Lads Alliance had planned to ­protest outside Didsbury mosque last Sunday. It came after the BBC alleged that Imam Mustafa Graf had preached “armed jihad” in Iraq and Syria and was linked to one of the Manchester Arena bombers.

The thugs didn’t show up after 80 people joined a solidarity picket organised by Stand Up To Racism and Unite Against Fascism.

One woman worshipper at the mosque said, “If you come to our mosques, if you come to our synagogues, if you come to our gurdwaras, if you come to our Temples—then we will be there.

“No exceptions.”

Anti-racists need to show solidarity with Muslims whenever there is a racist attack and build opposition to the far right. But it’s also crucial to build a movement that can push back the state-sponsored Islamophobia that fuels them.

As Azar said, “We need to do a lot more of what people have started to do—to come together as Muslim organisations, unions, campaigns.

“And we need to realise that things such as xenophobia or attacks on Muslims are part of one thing so we’re not divided.”


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