British Muslims await fallout of Brexit vote

British Muslims await fallout of Brexit vote
Perceptions of increased racism and Islamophobia are rising, but Muslims in multicultural London are still waiting to feel the wider impact of the xenophobic campaign against a united Europe.
6 min read
29 September, 2016
Muslims in London say they feel increasing marginalisation is yet to come [Nargess Moballeghi]
It's been three months since Britain held its historic referendum on membership of the European Union.

In reality, no one expected Team Brexit to win, including. it turns out, the leaders of the Brexit campaign - who all jumped ship quicker than it took Theresa May to coin the term "Brexit means Brexit".

Three months on, we know that "Brexit means Brexit", although that is all anybody appears to actually know.

When it comes to the economy, it is frankly too early to tell what Brexit means and will mean. Those who were against Brexit focus on the crash straight after the result was announced, those in favour say that the economy has already bounced back.

Second quarter results were only a shadow of the fall-out offered by the promise of a Brexit. Only in the long term will the concrete consequences be known.

One thing is for sure; the rhetoric throughout the campaigning was vicious and often toxic. Since the vote, hate crime has soared.

Police statistics show that hate crime reports peaked at nearly 60 percent above "normal" levels after the vote, and were particularly high in areas were the vote was in favour of leaving the EU. While the figure has decreased since its peak, it is still 14 higher than at the same point last year.

The trend in the UK has been that every spike has long term consequences. The rates do not settle back down to the previous low, they settle to a higher average norm than before.

Of course these statistics only account for recorded crime, and may well represent just the tip of the iceberg. Anti-immigrant sentiment has focused on Eastern Europeans and Muslims.

The British Muslim population is young - a third are aged under 15 - and almost half are British-born.

Three months on from the vote, what do they think of Brexit, and have they felt a difference toward them in the community they live? 

Hussain, 24-year-old NHS worker

"Obviously I have heard and read about the rise in incidents. It's more to do with sisters. Personally I don't think men will be as targeted as people will be more scared - it is easier to attack the sisters. They are more visible if they are wearing hijab, and it is easier to discriminate against them. 

"Having said that, it does happen to all of us. I had a friend who was going out to a venue one evening and the security didn't let him in because he was a Muslim. 

"To be honest I blame the media. I no longer read the press in this country because they will never tell the truth and they will never be good to Muslims. They always twist things to be negative. 

"I know a lot of people have bought in to their rhetoric and I say to them; just turn off the news and go outside, meet Muslims; there's 1.4 billion of us - you would have all been dead by now if we were really what the media say we are! 

"If you're here in the UK just come out, meet us, talk to us, we are friendly people."

Batool, 31, advertising worker and mother of two 

"Where I live, in London, I don't think it will make much difference to the fabric of society, as it is already so diverse here.

"I lived in Sweden for seven years - and I found Islamophobia much worse there, especially outside of Stockholm where they still have a lot of issues with black people and Muslims.

"I think here as well, outside of London is worse, but overall my experience in Britain has been better than Sweden. Having said that, when I came back to London three years ago, I could definitely see and a feel that things had changed significantly for the worse, especially the Islamophobic rhetoric in the media.

"Since I've been back I've actually felt more negativity from other ethnic minorities then 'English people'... My sons did have some questions about Brexit but it hasn't really impacted them - their school is diverse and they haven't had any problems - although I can't say what the future holds for them once we actually leave Europe, if we ever do!"

Raef, 36-year-old restaurant owner

"I was actually for Brexit, but I didn't vote because I didn't really think it would count, so I was surprised at the result.

"The country was falling apart and they needed to do something about the whole situation in Europe. I'm not for all this talk about building a wall between here and Calais and I am totally against all the hate crime.

"I think even in London, certain parts are worse than others, I've heard a lot of stories from East London. I haven't felt anything yet but I think early next year we will see changes that will affect us. They might open a can of worms.

"Everything looks ok right now, but as time goes on they may introduce new laws and new rules and in the current ciliate we don't know how that will affect us, it could be bad for us as Brits and as Muslims. As a small business owner I have found that it has become harder to find staff since Brexit.

"A lot of European staff have gone back and I also have friends in Italy who were coming to move here and since Brexit they have been put off."

Haya and Romina, 18-year-old students

Haya: "I wasn't voting age at the time, although I am now. I was quite neutral in the debate, whatever happens, happens at the end of the day. As young people, we never get much of a say in anything anyway.

"I did notice a rise in prices since Brexit, especially on my summer holiday. I haven't faced any Islamophobia but I do know about the rise because of all the reports. But I haven't faced an incident. Not yet anyway, but I think I will.

"I do think I will see a change, because people will see my hijab and think or say 'go back to your country'. I know it will happen. But I am British, this is my country."

Romina: "I was eligible to vote but I didn't. Because I don't wear a scarf everybody obviously thinks I am not Muslim, just because of the stereotypical views that they have, which is not good.

"I think I may have actually heard more, because sometimes when people don't realise you are a Muslim they will say things that they may not have said otherwise. London is really multicultural and you still hear things now and then, so I dread to think what is happening outside of the capital."

Follow Nargess Moballeghi on Twitter: @JournoNargess