Mosque security funding: Crumbs that don't stop Islamophobia
As Muslims in the UK continue to face Islamophobia, the government’s response is to offer £24.5m in funding to securitise mosques. Where even to begin with how woefully inadequate this approach is in addressing the cause of Islamophobia and tackling the issue at its root?
While we know that Islamophobia exists, it may surprise some to know the extent to which it has pervaded society. In the UK, a survey recently revealed that an alarming 70% of Muslims have experienced Islamophobia in the workplace. We face Islamophobia when we go to work, when we’re out in public, when we leave our mosques, in universities, schools and hospitals, and in the form of racial profiling from police.
But Islamophobia goes beyond discrimination, hate crime or any expression of animosity towards Muslims. These are only manifestations of a phenomenon that has its tentacles deeply embedded in the psyche of people not just in the UK or even the West, but in many parts of the world.
So by offering security funding to mosques, the government is attempting to address only one facet of an exponentially larger issue. What’s worse, and what makes this gesture even more hypocritical, is the role the state has actively played, and continues to pay, in entrenching Islamophobia within British society.
''The idea that we need greater securitisation in order to ensure safety is in itself a neoliberal fallacy. It’s also the very same ideology that is responsible for Prevent. Meanwhile what the Tories never seem to acknowledge is that one of the key factors leading to rising crime in general, and making our streets less safe, is poverty.''
When announcing this funding for mosques, securities minister Damian Hinds said, "[i]t is a fundamental right to be able to practise your faith in your community". As ever, the British government is full of contradictions. On the one hand, it’ll talk about rights and freedoms as though they were equally available to everyone. On the other, it’ll actively demonise, marginalise and expel people from minority groups to further its own agenda.
It’s hard to overstate the cognitive dissonance it must take for a Tory minister to proclaim that Muslims have a fundamental right to practise their faith, while school governors and teaching staff in the Trojan Horse scandal got blacklisted for trying to instil in and facilitate for Muslim students the very same principle.
Those involved faced repeated accusations of ominous ‘Islamisation’ plots and pointed questions about their potential ‘Salafi’ leanings. The situation for Muslim students has since become so toxic that even nursery-age children aren’t safe from Prevent’s tyrannical reach. And subscribing to certain Muslim schools of thought, or signs of increased religiosity, continue to be criminalised.
Much has already been said about the havoc Prevent has wreaked on Muslim communities. But the foundational principles which feed the criminalisation of Muslims extend well beyond one single policy. The War on Terror, and the associated demonisation of ‘radical’/‘extremist’ Islam, feed and sustain a global Islamophobia machine – one that states and institutions continue to not only prop up but also profit from.
During his premiership, David Cameron’s comments and policy focus on “Islamic extremism” contributed to the creation of an ‘environment of hate’ which persists to this day. More recently, Cameron went as far as to accuse campaigners speaking out against Prevent of "enabling terrorism". And despite loud and persistent objections from Muslims to the way Prevent targets them, the Shawcross Review has doubled down on encouraging a hardline approach against ‘Islamist extremism’.
It is therefore utterly tone deaf for the British state to now talk about Islamophobic hate crime and freedom of religion without acknowledging its own role in how we got here.
Hinds went on to say in his statement, "[t]his new round of funding will cover the costs of security measures for places of worship to deter and prevent hate-crime attacks on vulnerable communities, making our streets safer.” There’s no acknowledgement here of how Islamophobic hate crime rose astronomically as a direct result of comments from Hinds’ boss and the current Prime Minister, Boris Johnson.
Moreover, the idea that we need greater securitisation in order to ensure safety is in itself a neoliberal fallacy. It’s also the very same ideology that is responsible for Prevent. Meanwhile what the Tories never seem to acknowledge is that one of the key factors leading to rising crime in general, and making our streets less safe, is poverty.
The Tories have inflicted upon working class communities over a decade of austerity combined with disaster capitalism. As inflation rises, energy prices aren’t being regulated in any real sense and wages remain stagnant. In reality, the cost of living crisis is little more than class war.
And to top it off, the government’s culture war narrative and scapegoating of immigrants is so effective that despite its failings, immigrant communities bear the brunt of the frustration from white working class people.
It’s the colonial divide and rule tactic that remains as effective as ever. Hate crime, then, is the inevitable result. So before funding mosque security, maybe stop fuelling the hatred in the first place.
Perhaps it’s not surprising that this is what the government has chosen to do in order to ostensibly tackle Islamophobia. Reducing the complex, structural nature of anti-Muslim racism to hate crime absolves the state of any accountability for its own role. It’s important, however, that Muslims are paying attention.
Where our communities remain chronically neglected as we face cuts and underfunding, it’s essential to recognise these crumbs for exactly what they are. The government wants to be seen as tackling Islamophobia on the surface while simultaneously entrenching and sustaining it behind closed doors. We need to call it out for what it is: at best inadequate, and at worst a distraction tactic to minimise the impact of the state’s own Islamophobia.
Afroze Fatima Zaidi is a writer, editor and journalist. She has a background in academia and writing for online platforms.
Follow her on Twitter: @afrozefz.
Have questions or comments? Email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.