Marine Le Pen, presidential candidate for the National Front party, a right-wing party which has not been in power since its founding in the 1960s, has caused endless controversy with her campaign. She has stated that she is opposed to a multicultural France and in similar words to Trump’s during his presidential campaign. that she wants to place “France first”.
Inevitably, Nigel Farage, one of the pioneers of the ‘Brexit movement’, supports the election of Marine Le Pen, signifying the political stance that Le Pen takes. Like Farage she is also calling to leave the European Union, so that, in her view, France would have more control over its borders and is able to lower immigration levels. In 2015 she appeared in court for inciting hate speech when, in 2010, she compared Muslims praying in the street to a Nazi occupation. Her father, founder and previous leader of the National Front, was fined in 2016 for denying that the Holocaust during the Nazi era ever occurred.
Similarly to many right-wing movements in Europe and the US, her focus is now largely on the so-called “threat” of Islam. She has stated: “We do not want to live under the rule or threat of Islamic fundamentalism. They are looking to impose on us gender discrimination in public places, full body veils or not, prayer rooms in the workplace, prayers in the street, huge mosques... or the submission of women”.
Regarding immigration, she suggested that future generations of children will not speak French as immigration will dominate and change French culture. She has said that “Every minute, every instant, from Brittany to Corsica and from Lille to Strasbourg, the French look around them, and ask themselves: Where am I?”. Unsurprisingly, her policies are highly nationalist. She has stated that French nationals would have to renounce dual citizenship if their second nationality is from outside Europe. Her views coincide strongly with President Trump’s, she advocated support for his travel ban, stating that people who opposed it did so in “bad faith.” One of her senior aides argued that a Muslim travel ban, like the one introduced in the US recently, would work in France.
Fortunately, while Le Pen is en route to winning the first round of voting in France, she is unlikely to become President of France according to predictions. Polls show her to be 20-30% behind the other candidates in the last round of voting in May. Then again, polls failed to predict both the outcome of the EU referendum in the UK and of the US presidential election.
Whatever the outcome, Le Pen’s vitriolic campaign has furthered division and exacerbated support for xenophobic sentiments. She is a xenophobic and discriminatory politician who is preying on the fears of voters by using immigrants as scapegoats. She is taking advantage of populist sentiment across Europe and the US. The current political climate of hatred is worrying for charities like JAN Trust which aim to promote inclusivity and integration.
For more information on the work we do to fight racism and Islamophobia, visit our website: www.jantrust.org
Over a fortnight ago, an article was published in the Evening Standard titled ‘Nearly half of black and ethnic minority Londoners have faced racist abuse.’
If this statistic surprised anyone, it shouldn’t have. Yes, we have made progress in the fight against racism. Last month, Londoners voted to have a Mayor who is a practising Muslim and the Chelsea Flower Show awarded its first gold medal to a Black woman but this doesn’t mean that racist abuse and discrimination against Black and ethnic minorities has disappeared or isn’t as bad as it used to be.
Hate crime is rising rapidly particularly against visibly Muslim women. Articles about attacks on Muslim women appear almost daily in both print and online media. There have even been videos uploaded to the Internet of the physical and verbal attacks on Muslim women.
However, physical and verbal abuse is not the only form of racism Black and ethnic minorities are encountering. According to the article in the Evening Standard, the form of racism and discrimination affecting Black and ethnic minorities today is institutional racism. As the author of the article, Joe Murphy, wrote ‘Our investigation uncovers the often blatant, however mostly subtle and complex, nature of ‘silent discrimination and institutional racism’ that is present in modern Britain today.’ The unemployment rate of non-Whites is significantly high as the graph below which was produced by the Office for National Statistics last year shows.
Muslims are one such group that are disproportionately affected by institutional racism and face the most difficulties in finding employment or rising to a managerial role. This can be attributed to rising Islamophobia. Last year, Dr, Nabil Kattab of the University of Bristol conducted a survey revealing that 71% of British Muslim women are up to 65 per cent less likely to be employed than white Christian counterparts.
The failure to properly address institutional racism increases the feeling of disaffection already felt by marginalised communities and can lead to them becoming even more isolated. It also prevents them from fully integrating into the society in which they live and fosters a sense of inequality and unfairness.
JAN Trust has worked with marginalised women from BAMER communities for nearly 3 decades encouraging, educating and empowering them so that they can fully participate in society but these efforts can be thwarted if these women are not given access to the same opportunities as other women with similar skills and experience.
In 2010, JAN Trust launched its Say No To Hate Crime campaign. Our website is a resource bank providing access to a range of information and materials about hate crime specifically race and religious hate crime for victims of hate crime as well as their supporters and also professionals working on this issue. We actively encourage victims of hate crime to anonymously report the verbal and/or physical abuse they’ve suffered using our online reporting form. We also provide support to victims and shape policies aimed at combating hate crime and Islamophobia. To find out more about how JAN Trust is tackling hate crime, please visit our website at: http://www.saynotohatecrime.org.
While immigrants have often experienced difficulties integrating into a new society, in the past few years in the UK they have experienced increasing problems as a direct result of anti-immigration rhetoric from political parties which have then influenced citizens and government.
Even some immigrants who have been in the UK for two decades still struggle to integrate because of linguistic barriers or because they cannot find employment. The language barrier automatically suggests that they are uneducated when, in reality, it just prevents them from being able to properly express themselves. Even when an immigrant’s English is good, they can be held back by their accent which can cause miscommunication.
The children of these immigrants who are born in the UK and defined as ‘second-generation’ immigrants, integrate much more easily, if not always completely, into British society. As a result, there can be a huge generational gap in terms of ideas and culture. They often rely on their children for help with things they cannot understand; potentially making them feel even more like a burden. However, this is one of the main reasons that immigrants have come to the UK, to provide a better life for their children even if they themselves will struggle.
And this is before we even consider the xenophobia. As Kenyan-Somali poet Warsan Shire writes, when an immigrant arrives to their destination country:
‘And you are greeted on the other side
go home blacks, refugees
dirty immigrants, asylum seekers
sucking our country dry of milk,
dark, with their hands out
smell strange, savage –
look what they’ve done to their own countries,’
As has been proven, employment opportunities are scarcer because of discrimination based on the colour of your skin or your religion. In recent years as services and resources are becoming more constrained, the first scapegoat becomes the immigrant - migrants have taken the jobs, are taking benefits unnecessarily, are exploiting the NHS. Rhetoric which has been heard too often.
As a result, many women do not integrate and there are areas of the UK where divisions and xenophobia are rife. The JAN Trust aims to help immigrants who are struggling to integrate with English and ICT classes. To find out more go to http://jantrust.org/.
The triggering of Article 50 on 29th of March which signalled the start of the two-year long process of the UK’s negotiations to leave the EU has been met with hugely differing reactions. From those in the Leave camp who want the country’s national sovereignty restored, it is hard to remember a time in recent history when the UK has felt so divided. This feeling has only been exacerbated by Scotland’s decision to hold a second independence referendum.
While many people across the country - and indeed the whole EU - are feeling uncertain and even scared, for some communities this worry is stronger than others.
In the immediate aftermath of the referendum for the UK to leave the EU it was recorded that there was a 41% increase in hate crimes, which includes racially or religiously aggravated crimes. And Muslim women, in particular those who openly express their faith by wearing the hijab or the burqa, are more vulnerable to attacks than men. Tell MAMA, an organisation that measures anti-Muslim attacks, noted that “women were more likely to be attacked or abused while travelling on public transport to town and city centres or when shopping.”
This is a consequence of a Leave campaign which relied on anti-immigrant rhetoric to gain votes. The issue of high levels of immigration has been an issue for the British electorate for many years now, as they fear the rising population to be a strain on public services. Nigel Farage, former leader of UKIP, took advantage of this fear by unveiling a highly controversial poster during the campaign which was of a queue of immigrants, largely from the Middle East, with the words “Breaking point: the EU has failed us all.”
However, this increase in hate crime – and especially Islamophobia - did not begin with the referendum. The far-right in the UK has been growing in recent years, with groups taking advantage of the internet and social media to reach more people. Tommy Robinson, co-founder of the English Defence League, has a large following on Twitter which he uses as a platform.
The political climate of Brexit, along with the US election of Donald Trump, has marginalised many ethnic minorities in both the UK and the US. Prime Minister Theresa May failed to condemn President Trump’s policy of a travel ban for some majority-Muslim countries. This has led to many ethnic minorities, especially Muslims, feeling isolated and stigmatised as ‘terrorists’.
Another issue that Brexit brings is whether citizens’ rights will still be protected. Currently the UK abides to the European Court of Human Rights and its rulings, where families and individuals are protected. Leaving the EU will mean that a new set of rights will be drawn up, which could affect the rights of many citizens, especially immigrants, in the UK.
Despite these numerous causes for concern, the attack in Westminster on March 22nd, rather than inciting racism and Islamophobia led instead to an outpouring of solidarity. London, being the second most culturally diverse city in the world, united in the face of terrorism.
Islam as a religion should not be smeared by horrific individual acts. The recent news of a Kurdish-Iranian 17 year old asylum seeker being attacked in Croydon is shocking, yet in a way unsurprising. Unfortunately, there is now an unjustified fear of immigrants, which means that in the UK, Muslims and other ethnic minorities have to be careful whilst in public. Muslim women should be especially careful as their headwear is indicative of their faith. Until the process of Brexit is settled and an immigration policy is decided, the far right will use the platform of social media to make immigrants the enemy.
At JAN Trust, we believe that this climate of fear is counter-productive in creating tolerance in a British society which takes pride in multiculturalism. The UK must remain tolerant of other communities if we are to progress and improve as a society.
In possibly the most shocking event of the twenty-first century, four-time bankrupted businessman and reality star Donald J. Trump has ridden to power on a wave of populism based on the exploitation of economic and social grievances of parts of the American public.
In only his first month, he has already managed to become the most divisive and controversial president in memory, with the lowest approval rating of any new President.
After a Populist campaigning focusing on the “threat” that foreigners pose to the United States, his victory on November 8th signalled an era of uncertainty for ethnic minorities, especially Muslims. Calls to Naseeha, a Muslim Youth helpline in Canada, soared after the election, with many concerned Muslim American citizens calling worried about the statements that Trump had made and what the future entailed for them.
Trump has made numerous highly worrying statements, such as that there should be a register for Muslims in America, a policy strongly reminiscent of that in in Nazi Germany which represented the first step in barring Jews from certain positions and eventually disenfranchising them completely.
Having stated prior to the election, that the US border should be temporarily closed to all Muslims until terrorism is at a more “manageable” level, one of his first policies was to ban nationals of certain Muslim-majority countries (notably none of the countries in which he has business interests), including US Green Card holders and refugees, from entering the US.
Reactions to his actions and statements have been less than favourable. His “Muslim Ban” was deemed illegal and overturned by the Supreme Court, a ban which he is currently fighting. The Executive Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations has said that “American Muslims are here to stay. We are not going anywhere, and will not be intimidated or marginalised.” In the UK, Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, has said that Trump must “Do everything in his power to unite people and bring divided communities back together”. And in an unprecedented move, the Speaker of the House of Commons stated that Trump would not be allowed to speak in parliament.
Many businesses have openly defied his plans, with Starbucks pledging to hire 10,000 refugees, many people boycotting his hotels and businesses, and even America as a tourist destination and many tech companies, who recruit largely outside of the US, voicing strong opposition and stating they will need to move if his plans are enacted.
At a grassroots level, protests and marches against Trump are on the increase. The women’s marches that took place across America and around the world the day after Trump’s inauguration have been transformed from a one-day event to an activist movement. There is now a Twitter hashtag #WomensMarchWednesday where people from around the world are able to discuss activism and support each other. In the UK there are a series of protests planned in the lead up to his visit of the UK on the 20 March.
But regardless of whether Trump is able to put these plans into place, the danger he poses goes beyond this. The fact that the world’s most important leader now routinely makes racist, anti-Islamic statements is enough to create serious problems, not just in the United States, but globally.
Since Trump’s stance on refugees, opinion polls show that most Europeans - including 47% of Britons - want a ban on refugees from Muslim-majority counties. And this sentiment has even affected the views of our government, yesterday it was announced that the UK will no longer be taking unaccompanied child refugees from Syria.
Across Europe, the extreme right, which had been growing in recent years, is becoming emboldened by a world leader who effectively legitimises their views. Far-right attacks in the UK and much of continental Europe are on the rise, and the 30 of January saw the extreme culmination of what this racist rhetoric can lead to when Canadian citizen and avid Trump supporter, Alexandre Bissonnette opened fire in a Mosque in Quebec killing 6 and injuring 10 more.
While, of course, Trump’s rhetoric cannot be blamed for the actions of an individual, they do create a climate in which people who hold such ideas feel supported and feel that their actions are justified.
The “total and complete shutdown of Muslims” Trump wants cannot happen. As we are seeing, whatever he says affects the views of political leaders and citizens across the globe, an issue which is especially worrying with the current wave of right-wing sentiment sweeping Europe.
The US must not further create division across the world by creating the impression that all Muslims are terrorists or criminals. The US has always been an example of multicultural unity and it would be a shame for other countries to be influenced by the anti-immigration rhetoric in the US at the moment.
However bleak the situation seems, there is a case for optimism. In the wake of his election, millions of people marched for equality and solidarity with all women, rejecting Trump’s hatred and bigotry. Many marched against the election of Donald Trump because they believe that his administration puts into doubt the protection of women’s rights. Most admirably, women across the world for varied rights and in support of those they felt would be most affected by Trump’s presidency - there were around 600 rallies altogether worldwide. There were marches in Nairobi for reproductive rights. There were marches in India against sexual harassment. Many men also marched in solidarity. The image above, of a woman in a hijab decorated in the American flag, exemplifies the message of the protests – how being Muslim and American are not mutually exclusive but that Muslim women are a part of American society and as such should be fully accepted and welcomed.
JAN Trust hopes to allay Muslim women’s fear of xenophobia across the world by providing a safe space for them to integrate within British society. To find out more go to http://jantrust.org/.