The Aziz Foundation launched its End Islamophobia campaign by hosting a reception at the spectacular Raphael Court in the Victoria and Albert Museum. The event marked the inaugural UN Day to Combat Islamophobia, which is observed on March 15 annually. The date was chosen as the anniversary of the massacre that took place in 2019 at Christchurch, New Zealand, where more than 50 Muslims were gunned down simply because of their faith.
Attendees included a cross section of civil society actors including high profile politicians, journalists, influencers, celebrities, as well as university leaders and academics.
The event, hosted by the distinguished actor and comedian Adil Ray OBE, included the following speakers:
Rahima Aziz called for the UN Day to be officially recognised by the government as it would send a strong signal to all in society that Islamophobia would not be tolerated in any form. It would also “open the door for more opportunities for educating and raising awareness about Islamophobia”.
Naz Shah spoke passionately about the everyday reality of Islamophobia for so many Muslims in the UK; the daily abuse and threat of physical violence that are the tip of the iceberg. She also stated that many British Muslims face limited opportunities at work and avenues to progress are blocked across industries.
Baroness Warsi’s powerful contribution centred around how she has seen the growth of Islamophobia, from the propagation by extremists to being incubated in seemingly respectable settings. In her words, it has passed the ‘dinner table test’, and is the topic of conversation in polite society. She also voiced her regret at the lack of public engagement in the process of formulating a definition of Islamophobia, despite one being advanced by the community.
Mariah Idrissi spoke about growing up in a multicultural neighbourhood where she did not face racism/Islamophobia, when she suddenly encountered abuse online for wearing the hijab in a fashion campaign. She experienced discrimination from brands who wanted to profit through marketing to the Muslim community without wanting to acknowledge the importance of the hijab for shaping the identity of Muslim women. She stressed the salience of respecting each other’s differences through appreciating the enrichening nature of the diversity in Britain, where the history of Muslim migration dates back over 300 years.
Professor Ahmed Shaheed summarised the origins/genesis of the UN Day to Combat Islamophobia. Furthermore, he outlined how Islamophobia can be curbed and lessons learnt from the international stage.
Chunkz urged people not to fall into ‘othering’; urging people to make personal contacts and not to fall for lazy tropes and stereotypes. Moreover, he communicated the need to resist being sucked into a culture of hatred.
The key themes from the event include the urgency with which Islamophobia should be recognised and called out in all its forms; the importance of allyship and building coalitions in defeating Islamophobia; and the significance of engagement with Muslim communities continuing outside of times such as Ramadan and Eid.
For more information see the End Islamophobia campaign homepage.