JAN Trust is a multi-award winning charity empowering and providing leadership for women in order to create positive and active citizens of society

discrimination,

Burkini ban busted!

Nearly two weeks ago, mayors in about 30 French coastal resorts decided to impose a ban on the burkini (A burkini is a type of swimming costume that some Muslim women wear, which covers the arms, legs and hair). The ban prohibited women from wearing a burkini on public beaches or in the sea. If the ban was violated, a fine would have to be paid. Mayor Villeneuve-Loubet argued that in light of the recent attack on Nice it was ‘necessary, appropriate and proportionate’ to implement the ban in order to prevent public disorder. A French NGO, Human Rights League, and the Collective against Islamophobia in France challenged the ban arguing that the mayors had no right telling women what they can and cannot wear on beaches. They were successful and last week the burkini ban was overturned by France’s top court which ruled that the ban ‘violates basic freedoms.’ However, the mayors are refusing to lift the ban. The ban was also condemned by the UN who described it as “a grave and illegal breach of fundamental freedoms” and a “stupid reaction” to recent extremist attacks.

Within the French cabinet, most supported the ban but there was some disagreement over it. The French Prime Minister Manuel Valls stated that, “For me the burkini is a symbol of the enslavement of women.” Both the Education Minister and the Health Minister, Marisol Touraine, spoke out against the ban. The former said that the debate was fuelling racist rhetoric whilst the latter wrote on her website that “To pretend that swimming veiled or bathing on a beach dressed is in itself threatening to public order and the values of the Republic is to forget that those (secular) values are meant to allow each person to safeguard their identity.”

The burkini ban reached its climax last week when a photo was published of a Muslim woman on a beach in France surrounded by armed Police officers who made her take off her burkini. This sparked widespread furore which led to a protest against the ban outside of the French embassy in London in the form of a beach party. Despite being organised last-minute the protest received a lot of attention. Women in the city came together to show their solidarity with French Muslim women. The Mayor of London even spoke out against the ban telling the Evening Standard newspaper that “I’m quite firm on this. I don’t think anyone should tell women what they can and can’t wear. Full stop. It’s as simple as that”.

Mayor Villeneuve-Loubet’s claim that there is a security threat from women who show their religious affiliation is untrue. It is utterly absurd to link a piece of clothing with terrorism and in fact it is irresponsible to do so. The burkini ban is anecdotal of France’s rampant Islamophobia particularly against visibly Muslim women and follows the country’s ban on wearing the veil. There has been a wave of conservatism sweeping Europe and the rest of the world. In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives are calling for a partial ban on the niqab, whilst in Austria right-wing politicians have called for a ban on the burqa. In Switzerland there are calls for a popular vote on a ban on the burqa. Civil liberties are being curtailed on the pretext of national security which is very worrying.

State-sponsored Islamophobia is weakening community cohesion and has the potential to sow the seeds for conflict and hatred. The argument that the burkini is oppressive is offensive and ignores the fact that many women choose to wear the swimsuit because it allows them to go to a public beach or pool and swim and feel comfortable whilst doing so. It encourages social integration and can help overcome certain communities from being socially excluded. In the UK, many leisure centres hold women’s only swimming sessions where women of no faith and women of faith can swim. For many women from faith communities this enables them to undertake a healthy activity.

JAN Trust has done a lot of work on fostering community cohesion. Our experience of working on community engagement and community cohesion, as a charitable organisation, includes the delivery of training, projects and services aimed at socially and economically empowering women. For example, through our City and Guilds Fashion course and our IT for Beginners course we are not only skilling women but helping them to acquire the knowledge and tools to enter today’s challenging workforce. At the same time we are also promoting the enhancement of women as active members of society. Through our training, projects and services we are enabling independence and resilience by building the skills, resources and capacities of the BAMER community. Many of our women have gone on to become employed, self-employed or started volunteering.

We have also delivered a number of workshops across the country encouraging civic awareness amongst grassroots communities. In 2008, JAN trust organised Haringey’s first community cohesion conference called ‘One Community Many Voices’ (2008). The conference gave members of the public, in particular BAMER women, the opportunity to question the leader of the Council, their local Member of Parliament, the relevant portfolio holder for Communities and the local Police force.

If you’re interested in our work to promote community cohesion, please get in contact with us.

JAN Trust opinion on Brexit

It’s been five days since the result of the EU Referendum that took place last week, yet the effects are still being felt. The country is in disarray. The results were close with 51.9% voting to leave the EU and 48.1% voting to remain, showing that the country is heavily polarised. Following the results, on Friday morning, the Prime Minister announced that he would be resigning stating in his resignation speech that “The country requires fresh leadership …” This was followed by the intensification of in-party fighting within the Labour Party. Meanwhile, on Facebook, articles were popping up about the rise in the number of hate crimes being reported and video footage of racist incidents since Brexit.

Over the weekend, we at JAN Trust felt it necessary to tell our users that should they or someone they know experience hate crimes or hate incidents to call the Police in an emergency or report it using the online form on our website http://www.saynotohatecrime.org. It would appear that the result of the referendum has legitimised such overt expressions of hatred. As someone wrote on Facebook, referring to this increased racism “… let’s face it, things were already like this before Brexit, but we have had our heads in the sand about it far too often.” JAN Trust is only too aware of this, having worked to tackle deep-rooted racism, both overt and covert, directed at women from Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic and Refugee (BAMER) backgrounds since it was established in 1989. We have done a lot of work to challenge discrimination but also to build community cohesion.

It is important to note that not all those who voted to leave the EU hold racist and xenophobic views but immigration was a key concern for a number of those who voted to leave. The Leave campaign played on peoples fear of immigration arguing that whilst it was a member of the EU, Britain would be unable to control its own borders and in turn who came into the country. However, there were other reasons too which led the majority to vote to leave the EU and these must be carefully analysed and responded to in the right way.

An article by Matthew Goodwin, Associate Fellow, Europe Programme at Chatham House, in Politico magazine, titled ‘Inequality not personalities drove Britain to Brexit’ explores the factors that led to Brexit by taking a look at voting patterns which according to Goodwin show a country deeply divided along three lines: social class, generation, and geography. Immediately after the results were announced, the generational divide was highlighted with older voters choosing leave and younger voters choosing overwhelmingly to remain. However, since then discussion has moved on to inequality in Britain and millions who were deeply affected by austerity who mostly voted to leave, with Goodwin writing that “Brexit owed less to personal charisma than to a deep sense of angst, alienation and resentment amongst the financially disadvantaged” who have been hit hard by austerity. He gives the example of Boston in the East Midlands where 76% of those who voted wanted Britain to leave the EU. Boston is known for its high economic deprivation.

Again, JAN Trust is very familiar with the underlying causes and effects of poverty, deprivation and inequality. Since our creation, our work has focused on tackling these issues within the BAMER community at grassroots level.

In the same article, Goodwin also acknowledges the support for Brexit from those living in more leafy, affluent Conservative areas but there was also support from left-wingers who voted to leave the EU project in a stand against its imposition of neoliberal austerity.

What is clear to us at JAN Trust is that it is now more important than ever for all these issues to be taken seriously by politicians. They must break down the barriers which have led to this deep polarisation of British society and develop policies which aim to create a fairer and more inclusive democracy.

Kelvin Mackenzie and Islamophobia

Fatima Manji

Nearly two weeks ago, on Bastille Day, the city of Nice was attacked; 84 people were killed and 303 people injured. The killer was a divorced, father of three named Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel. Born in Tunisia, he later immigrated to France, settling in Nice, in 2005, where he worked as a delivery-truck driver.

Four days after the attack, a news article was published by The Sun, written by one of its former editors Kelvin Mackenzie who wrote that he “could hardly believe (his) eyes” when he saw “a young lady wearing a hijab” presenting the news following the Nice attack. Mackenzie believes it was inappropriate of Channel 4 to have a Muslim woman reporting the news when “there had been yet another shocking slaughter by a Muslim.”  This woman is Fatima Manji, a news reporter who joined Channel 4 in 2012, and has covered several news stories during her time with the channel such as the Natwest banking problem.

Since the release of the article, there have been over 1700 complaints sent to the Independent Press Standards Organisation (Ipso) as well as a formal complaint made by Fatima Manji herself and one from the CEO of the Independent Television News (ITN) who produce content for Channel 4 and other channels. The article has sparked a national outrage and once again questions what the authorities are doing to tackle the rise in Islamophobia in the UK.

As of September of last year, there has been a 70% increase in Islamophobia in the UK, with 60% of this hate being targeted towards Muslim women. In the last year, particularly since the attack in Paris, there has been a 300% increase in attacks on Muslims, mainly women. Prominent figures in the community are speaking out against this rise such as ex-Conservative Party Chair, Sayeeda Warsi, who highlighted this figure in a letter she sent to The Sun’s editor to complain about the article. These are shocking statistics, yet news stories like the one written by Kelvin Mackenzie continue to be published.

Since writing the article, The Sun has published another article written by Kelvin where he seemed unapologetic and mocked people for complaining:

“Instead of accusing me of Islamophobia (yawn! yawn!) Channel 4 might like to try finding a Muslim presenter to front a documentary about Islam’s attitudes towards the gay community, or perhaps on how women are treated as second-class citizens in Muslim countries.”

Kelvin Mackenzie and others who hold the same views as him are clearly out of touch with what’s happening in this country right now. Muslim women are being spat on, beaten and bullied for wearing the hijab. Fatima Manji has also written an article expressing the same concerns as JAN Trust about the rise in Islamophobia and hate crimes targeted at Muslims. Since the Paris attack last year and Brexit last month, hate crime against Muslims has soared and articles like Mackenzie’s only serve to add fuel to the fire.

At JAN Trust, we work with women and young people affected by Islamophobia and hate crime. We aim to raise awareness about how these impact Muslims living and working in the UK. We are at the forefront when it comes to tackling complex and sensitive issues such as Islamophobia and extremism. Using our knowledge and expertise, we have designed and delivered workshops addressing these issues to the communities which we advocate on behalf of, as well as to professionals working on these issues. We have worked with over 10,000 young people and practitioners across London and the UK. You can visit our website Say No To Hate Crime to learn more about the work we do at community level on hate crime and how to report hate crimes.

Meet Jurgita!

Jurgita“I really enjoy it. I would like to do something more with these new skills I have gained – maybe open my own business or get a job.”

This month JAN Trust would like to introduce you to Jurgita. Read her profile below:

Name: Jurgita

Country of origin: Lithuania

Ethnicity: Lithuanian

Jurgita came to the UK nearly 10 years ago. In Lithuania it is common for undergraduate students to take a gap year either before they have completed the final year of their degree or after. Jurgita was studying Civil Engineering, and chose to take her gap year before going into the final year of her studies. She worked for a civil engineering company, but it was her negative experience at the company which led her to come to the UK.

Whilst working at the company in Lithuania she faced gender discrimination, and was not helped to develop her knowledge and skills to prepare her for work in the construction industry. As a result, Jurgita decided not to finish her degree, but instead to come to the UK to improve her English. Before moving to London she lived in Gloucester where she attended college to learn English.

She found out about JAN Trust through her mother’s friend who was doing a fashion course at the centre. Jurgita already knew how to sew having learnt from her mother but she was keen to develop her skills so she enrolled on our accredited Fashion course.

When asked what she would like to do after the course, Jurgita said, “I would like to do something more with these new skills I have gained – maybe open my own business or get a job.”

When asked what she liked about JAN Trust, Jurgita smiled and said, “I like everything here! The staff and other users are very friendly. The staff understand our needs. I really enjoy it. Thank you JAN Trust.”

Muslim women and unemployment

A report published yesterday commissioned by the Women and Equalities Committee titled ‘Employment Opportunities for Muslims in the UK’ has revealed that many Muslim women face “triple penalties” which affect their job prospects – being women, being from an ethnic minority and being Muslim. 12.5% of Muslims are unemployed, compared to 5.4% of the general population and if we analyse these figures further Muslim women are more likely to be unemployed than Muslim men.

Muslim women face the ‘double bind’ of gender and religious discrimination particularly visibly Muslim women who are on the front line of attacks as we have written in previous blog posts. Muslim women who wear the hijab told the Women and Equalities Committee that they felt wearing the headscarf limited their employment opportunities. This discrimination prevents them from fully integrating into the society in which they live and fosters a sense of inequality and unfairness. Last month, JAN Trust wrote a blog on how institutional racism affects Muslims and about the difficulties they face in finding employment or rising to a managerial role. We highlighted the work of Dr. Nabil Kattab of the University of Bristol who conducted a survey in 2015 revealing that 71% of British Muslim women are up to 65 per cent less likely to be employed than white Christian counterparts.

The committee identified several factors including the following: discrimination and Islamophobia, stereotyping, pressure from traditional families, a lack of tailored advice around higher education choices, and insufficient role models across education and employment. It is true that discrimination and Islamophobia are affecting Muslim women as are the other factors identified by the committee such as poverty and language barriers. However, the work done by efforts made by JAN Trust to lift these women out of poverty by empowering them economically can be thwarted when they are not given access to the same opportunities as other women with similar skills and experience.

Maria Miller MP said that “Muslim women particularly, face really unacceptable levels of discrimination and that discrimination comes from the workplace, from employers, but also from within communities as well.” The committee has told Ministers that a plan must be introduced before the end of the year detailing how this issue will be tackled. Recommendations have already been made to the Government as to how it could begin confronting the employment inequalities being experienced by Muslim women. These include: raising awareness among employers of what constitutes illegal discrimination, pushing universities to introduce a dedicated careers advice service for BME students, and training Jobcentre Plus staff on the issues faced by Muslims.

The discrimination faced by Muslim women is not a new issue. Since it was established in 1989, JAN Trust has been campaigning for discrimination against Muslim women to be addressed. Founder, Rafaat Mughal OBE, sought to draw attention to this issue “the elephant in the room.”

In our work with women Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic and Refugee (BAMER) communities we have been told by Muslim women about the discrimination they and/or their families and friends have faces. In one area where JAN Trust delivered its Web Guardians© programme we were told by one lady about how her daughter’s friend had taken off her hijab prior to attending a college interview worried that she would not be given a place to study. Another lady told us of the discrimination her daughter had faced in the workplace because she wore hijab. Discrimination, in whatever form, must not be tolerated and organisations such as JAN Trust who work on a day-today basis with Muslim women should be listened to by the Government and supported to continue doing the work they do.

Muslim women are still more likely to be unemployed despite doing well in education

A report by the Social Mobility Commission, the ‘Ethnicity, Gender and Social Mobility’ report, has shown that Asian Muslim women, despite doing well in school, become socially immobile. This is due to many factors, including discrimination they face when looking for employment. The chairman of the commission, Alan Milburn, stated that the promise of social mobility is ‘being broken’.

The statistics are shocking when considering that ethnic minorities are far more likely to pursue higher education than White British children, with five in 10 Bangladeshi children going to university compared to just 1 in 10 white British children. Reports have found that British Muslim women have strong positive attitudes towards work, and that whilst they are more likely than White British women to take time out of employment after having children, they tend to have the overwhelming support of their families in finding work afterwards. The Young Foundation found that 93% of Muslim women who are not in work want to be, and feel supported by their families in looking for it. This disproves tabloid claims that Muslim women are unwilling to travel for work, or work in mixed-gender environments. Only 15% of Muslim women in the study said that they sought work in ‘women-only’ spaces, whilst 93% of British Muslim women stated that they would commute for up to an hour. So why are unemployment rates for British Muslim women still so high?

Bangladeshi and Pakistani women are the lowest earners out of all black and ethnic minority groups, having very little chance to gain professional occupations. When compared to male Bangladeshi graduates, despite performing better in education they are still less likely to gain a professional role. Culture is often cited as the central reason behind Muslim women’s perceived “failure” to integrate fully and economically, into British society.

While it is true that some British Muslim women face pressures from their family or community to stay at home, particularly after having children early - three times as many Muslim women as White British women are economically inactive because they are looking after the home – there are many other barriers that Muslim women face. These include discrimination due to religion and gender, and Muslim women who wear the hijab experience an even higher level of discrimination due to their outward display of religious beliefs

Islamophobia in the workplace has been well-documented. Evidence from France has discovered that practicing Muslims had a 4.7% chance of being called back for an interview, compared to 17.9% for their Catholic counterparts. In the UK, the Runnymede Trust has found that 25% of unemployment in ethnic minority groups can be accounted for by employer discrimination.

Muslim women face additional gendered barriers, and ‘cultural’ arguments seep into this discrimination. 1 in 8 Pakistani women in the UK have been asked about marriage and family aspirations in job interviews, as opposed to only 1 in 30 non-Muslim women, and they may also face evidence of “name discrimination”.  Many women have “whitened” job applications, using non-Muslim names on forms. Some have even chosen to stop wearing the hijab and niqab – 18% of Muslim women in work have stated that this helped them to find employment. If Asian Muslim women who are educated struggle in the labour market, it is even harder for barriers BAMER who don’t have qualifications or have recently migrated to the UK and might have limited English.

The report offered a number of recommendations, including that businesses need to specifically support Asian Muslim women to progress in their careers. This is something that JAN Trust has long recognised to be a priority. At JAN Trust, we provide the education for women to become aware of when they are experiencing discrimination and how to overcome it, with the aim of empowering themselves and be socially mobile in the job market.

JAN Trust empowers women to attain and achieve more, despite the fear of discrimination, through a variety of measures: from workshops that provide information about opening businesses to building confidence and self-esteem. Milburn stated that ‘Britain is a long way from having a level playing field of opportunity for all regardless of gender, ethnicity or background’.

Visit our website www.jantrust.org to learn more about the work we do empowering women to play a vital role in British society.

 

Muslim women, misogyny and Islamophobia

In recent weeks, there have been a spate of attacks targeting Muslim women both in the UK and abroad. Last week, a man was arrested for kicking a pregnant Muslim woman who it was reported on Tuesday lost her baby as a result. In the US, a Scottish Muslim woman visiting New York had her blouse set alight as she waited near a store. Attacks on Muslims have sadly become the norm. Everyday hate crime and discrimination seem to inform the daily lives of British Muslims but this doesn’t make the above any less shocking. In the US, Islamophobic rhetoric being spewed by Republican presidential frontrunner Trump is fanning the flames of Islamophobia whilst in the UK, hate crime has risen rapidly since Brexit. As Linda Sarsour, executive Director of the Arab American Association of New York, wrote in an opinion piece for the Guardian last week, ‘not only is wearing my religious headscarf in public an act of faith, but it has also become an act of courage.’

The rise of the trolls!

Trolls

 “One person said I should get cancer, I had somebody threatening to find me and tie me up”.

Last week, best-selling feminist author, Jessica Valenti, decided to take a break from social media following death and rape threats directed at her 5 year-old daughter. In recent weeks, there has been a surge in online hate and abuse directed towards women. A fortnight ago, JAN Trust participated in a conference held in London organised by Reclaim the Internet, to address the issue of online abuse. Reclaim the Internet is a campaign which brings together media platforms, tech companies, campaign groups, think tanks, employers, trades unions, politicians, the police, teachers, students, journalists, public figures, youth organisations and young people to take a stand against online abuse.

Our Director, Sajda Mughal, has been the target of online hate speech a number of times. Recently, she was subjected to a tirade of abuse on Twitter following a tweet she posted about the Fireman Sam Quran incident which sparked an Islamophobic row. This week, Nottingham Women’s Centre manager, Melanie Jeffs, who successfully campaigned for misogyny to be considered a hate-crime spoke out about the abuse she’s received since Nottinghamshire Police started recording misogyny as a hate crime. The most recent high profile case of online abuse was that of Ghostbusters actress Leslie Jones who received a torrent of racist abuse on Twitter. This led her to quit the social media platform but before doing so she spoke out against racist Twitter trolls and urged Twitter to do more to fight racist abuse saying we need to “stop letting the ignorant people be the loud ones.”

A study has revealed that in the space of 3 weeks from the end of April, 6500 Twitter users received 10,000 misogynistic tweets in the UK. Internationally, the figures were 200,000 misogynistic tweets sent to 80,000 people – surprisingly, over 50% of offenders were women! A report was released by the United Nations in January 2015 which “suggests 73% of women worldwide have been exposed to or are the target of some form of cyber violence. In the 18 months since then, online abuse – particularly of women, and, in the wake of the murder of the British MP Jo Cox, female politicians – has come under greater scrutiny”.

Women aren’t the only ones being attacked online. There are countless news stories about children being afraid to go to school or college or committing suicide because of cyber-bullying. There are also stories about young people with health issues such as anorexia who face a barrage of abuse online.

Although some perpetrators have been prosecuted, civil society organisations have said that there isn’t enough being done to tackle online hate. Social media companies have been told by the government that they need to do more. Currently, Twitter’s website provides it users with instructions on how to stop abuse received via its platform. This can be done by either blocking the Twitter account, or reporting it. However, if Twitter deletes the account, the same person can create a new account. People won’t stop abusing others online until there are stricter community guidelines and they realise the consequences of violating these guidelines.

At JAN Trust, we are standing up against the hate; through our Web Guardians© programme, we educate women and mothers on how to they can protect themselves and their children when online.

Why Donald Trump's Muslim Ban is Terrifying

On Friday 27th January 2017, President Trump signed an executive order which bans the citizens of seven majority-Muslim countries from applying for a visa to enter the United States. The seven countries are: Syria, Libya, Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Somalia and Yemen. The worldwide reaction to this unprecedented policy has been shock and disbelief. Online, the hashtag #MuslimBan has been trending on Twitter, with celebrities, politicians, and citizens voicing their views.

The policy will last for 90 days only until a more permanent solution is imposed. No refugees can enter the US for 120 days and, most shockingly, Syrian refugees are blocked indefinitely from entering the US. The order also prevents those of dual nationality, whose second nationality is from one of the banned countries, from entering the United States.

Following enactment of the policy, Sally Yates, now former Deputy and Acting Attorney General, was dismissed by Trump for standing up against the immigration ban, as she highlighted the fact that the proposals were in fact illegal under international law which states “Discrimination on nationality alone is forbidden under human rights law.”

As a result, in airports across the US are in chaos with people who have landed and arrived from one of the affected countries detained for hours and airport staff unclear as to what they should actually do. On Saturday, 109 people across America were detained as they arrived in the US. This included a five-year old child arriving from Iran, and a woman from Iraq who had been granted a green card. Although the policy has been partly blocked by law, it will still go ahead. This will cause undue stress to families who are separated and to those hoping for refuge in the US. Due to mixed communication from the US government the order initially even stopped citizens of the United States who had a green card from entering the country and it is still unsure whether the policy applies to green card holders are now allowed to enter the US.

Tens of thousands of people are protesting at airports across the US and worldwide there has been widespread condemnation from prominent figures. Activist Malala Yousafzai has stated that she is “heartbroken” by the law and Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has publicly criticised the policy, stating that the policy “flies in the face of the values of freedom and tolerance.”

London saw thousands of protesters voicing their concerns at a demonstration outside 10 Downing Street on Monday. Another protest in the UK is planned on the 18th of March, on UN Anti-Racism Day. If you would like to take part, visit this link. A petition that has already gathered over 1.5 million signatures calling for PM Theresa May to cancel President Trumps planned state visit has been circulated. Even former president Obama, in a move that is highly unusual for an ex-president to do, has spoken out against the measures.

When signing the order, Trump stated that “We don’t want them [radical Islamic terrorists] here.” And in a statement released later, he wrote “To be clear, this is not a Muslim ban, as the media is falsely reporting, this is not about religion – this is about terror and keeping our country safe.”

However, this is stereotyping millions of people. We at JAN Trust condemn such a policy and hope that the will of the people can make President Trump change his mind. Our Prime Minister Teresa May must also make a stand against such a policy that fosters such hatred and islamophobia.

We need Britain to make a stronger stand to show that other nations will not accept turning away refugees and stigmatising Muslims. Many have been sharing statistics which show that an American is far more likely to be shot by another American than killed by Islamic terrorists. It is a racial and religious profiling that stereotypes all Muslims to be potentially dangerous.

This policy is divisive and terrifying. It will lead to more problems rather than less, and has already done so. There has already been a terrorist attack in Canada with the murder of 6 Musin a mosque. This is where the irony lies. More American citizens have died at the hands of other American citizens than from a foreign terrorist threat and a policy like will only create further divisions in the US along ethnic lines. The protest on the 18th of March will show that citizens are united against racism and islamophobia.

Why Trump’s Discrimination against Muslim American Women is Damaging for the World

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/.

 

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