With Muslims suffering from state Islamophobia and oppression, Imran Shah comes up with nine practical ways that Muslims can make a difference in 2017.
2016 has been bad, yes, but no one has suffered more than Muslims. So if we want to start getting ourselves out of this mess here are my recommended priorities for the next year:
1. Focus on Islamophobia
This is an obvious one, but there is a strategic element as to why.
Our inability to get behind the many Muslim struggles globally has a direct impact on the growth Islamophobia we are facing today. This is especially true with the Palestinian struggle. There has been plenty of evidence that the Islamophobia Industry doesn’t just collaborate with Zionists but they are also actively promoting and funding it. Fear Inc 2.0 and Spinwatch are key resources.
As a result, the many fires that we have had to deal with in the Muslim world have multiplied and have globalised.
If we had taken the Palestinian struggle seriously, we would have at least have the political institutions and grassroots presence and community know-how to defend ourselves. And we would have been in a much better position to defend Muslims globally. Alas, because of our selfishness and narrow-mindedness we are still playing catch-up.
The dismantling of the Islamophobia Industry would be a huge blow to Israeli influence in the West. After all, the more they demonise you, the less people will have sympathy for people like you, and the more distractions they will have to demote the global priority of a Free Palestine.
2. Fund the right organisations
We spend many many millions, yes that right millions, on our Masajid and yet very little on the organisations that defend the existence of those Masajid.
We spend millions to causes overseas, and that should continue, but there’s almost no money for the long-term solutions that will help stop this devastation.
How long will we keep plastering the same wound before we turn our attention to those causing the wound? Will we only care about defending our Masajid and our way of life after they have been taken away from us?
3. Build infrastructure
The current level of activism will never be able to get us to where we want British Muslims and Muslims globally to be. We simply do not have the institutions, mechanisms and infrastructure to carry that forward. This means we need to start investing into new spaces.
Ideally these spaces need to be youth-focused so that they can take ownership and mature as the infrastructure matures, especially given that much of our current infrastructure is not youth friendly.
This cannot happen in just 5 or 10 years. It is our generation that must be a generation of builders. Not so that our children can overcome the challenges they will face, but just so that they are simply equipped to fight that good fight.
If we do not, we will fail them like our elders failed us.
4. Boycott of UK Press
The campaign, #StopFundingHate, has already caused some unprecedented successes. If you have not already joined the campaign and their social media pages, you should do. Newspapers deliberately demonise Muslims and pit society against itself.
However, we can go a step further. Every time we go into a corner shop, how many of us see the papers that demonise us being sold by our Muslim brothers and sisters who own the shop?
I find it very hard to believe they are unaware of what’s happening, but do give them the benefit of the doubt when approaching them. In any case, they cannot put their profit margins above the safety of their community and their customers. They should be challenged if they refuse to see common sense.
From my own experience of getting these shops to boycott Israeli dates, they will dismiss you at first so be prepared to get the rest of the community on board with you. They will fold very easily once the community is with you and with sustained pressure.
5. Resist Prevent
The targeting of Muslims by Prevent is clear. The veneer of trying to “civilise savages” within its own borders through regulating how Muslim should practice their faith has been more than evident over the years. Most prominently is perhaps RICU, a government initiative that funds “Muslim reformists” like Sara Khan’s Inspire to push their version of Islam. If the current counter-terrorism policy can be described as neo-medieval, the current counter-extremism policy can be described as neo-colonial.
There are some good-minded Muslims who still engage with this initiative, stating “we should promote any good work that comes out of it.” Whilst I’d normally agree, the government who sets the political direction has proven to be overtly Islamophobic many a time. Any small good work would legitimise a leviathan and do more harm than good.
In a time where even environmentalists and the Green Party have been investigated by security services as “radicals,” we have to remember we are just the soft target to normalise this social autocracy for everyone else.
6. Join the fight against racism
Much of the fight against racism emanates from anti-slavery revolts and revolutions. Many of those who helped lead those revolutions were Muslims. Many of the ones kidnapped and brutalised were Muslims.
It is part of our history and if we knew our history we would feel affinity with the struggle, but we don’t. If we knew our history, we would not be brainwashed by the racist sentiments of a racist media that hates us too. Isn’t that what Islam teaches us? To be a mercy to all of humanity?
It’s time we took a leaf from the black civil rights movement. The American black civil rights movement did not demand freedom for themselves, but for South America, Palestinians, Africans and pretty much anyone who is affected by White Supremacy. Our freedom is not complete without the freedom of others.
7. Don’t stay within your own echo chamber
Part of the reason we live in such politicised and divisive times is because people on social media tend to only talk and engage with people who are like them. This does not help when you have Google and Facebook algorithms that promote an echo chamber experience, but nonetheless it’s caused some shocking results that go far beyond Brexit and the rise of Trump.
Perhaps the most pertinent is the war in Syria. Misinformation and fake news is bad enough, but when you add echo chambers into the mix it creates a rigid dogmatism that refuses to listen to the other side. Solutions can never be born from this mix. The state of confusion only aids the most powerful.
It’s safe to say we are already fairly divided along sectarian, racial and political lines. We have to start talking to one another and put aside the insatiable desire to be right if we really want to put our Ummah and Allah above our nafs.
8. Empower women and our youth
After speaking to many Muslim women around me, including activists, it has dawned on me how many barriers they face. They face a political establishment that chooses to talk about them but suppress any space for their voice. Therefore, they are used to propaganda fodder.
We do not help the situation either. Instead of empowering and allowing our women to go out and defend themselves, we run away from the situation and bury ourselves in cultural Jahiliyah.
Culture plays a part in holding our youth back too. I am not just talking about parents pushing their children to go into one of three professions. Although that is still big problem. I have heard about too many stories where parents have actively suffocated their children who genuinely want to strive for the sake of Allah and bring about a better world. Ironically, they often use Islam to do so and that is a problem within more “traditional” and “modern” families.
If you want to destroy our future, this is a sure way of doing it. Our ability to reform ourselves will define our capacity to shape our own future.
9. Demand equality and freedom
All the above is linked to elevating the condition of Muslims directly in the West and indirectly globally.
Each action, big or small, no longer stands alone on itself. Rather they become part of a social conscience and movement that is far bigger than itself. Additionally, everyone has a space to do their bit and people can contribute to that demand in their own way even if they are not directly involved. This is when our activity becomes a movement.
So what do we need to do? Adopt the words “demand,” “freedom” and “equality” as part of our vocabulary. It’s simple but has proven to be extremely effective throughout the history of this world.
If you don’t give your narrative then people can’t understand your struggle. Their view of you and everything you do will only be formed by those against you.