Islamophobia in the UK?

How tolerant of Muslims is British Society? How safe are potential Saudi investors in the UK, physically and fiscally?

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DR AMIN KASHMEERY

Our country, Saudi Arabia, was honored by the visit of the Lord Mayor of London, Mr. Charles Bowman, who spent a couple of days, during the second week of December, conducting business activities in the Gulf region.

Ahead of the visit, Mr. Bowman arranged for a text written in eloquent Arabic to appear in The Riyadh daily newspaper on Monday, December 11th, under the title “Effective Friendship and Sustainable Partnership”, depicting a blueprint for his trip and its objectives.

Al Riyadh

The professional aspects of the text are likely to be indisputably welcomed by economists and decision-makers in both countries. However, Mr. Bowman’s statement on social aspects merits a great deal of scrutiny.

He said: “The British society is multi-cultural, and متسامح للغاية.” I deliberately quote the Arabic term he used, which could be translated as: extremely forbearing, indulgent, lenient, merciful, tolerant, etc.

As recent as June this year, the press had this to promulgate:

Anti-Muslim hate crimes increase fivefold

Figures released by the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, showed a fivefold increase in Islamophobic attacks.

The figures are indicative; police and community experts believe there is huge under-reporting of hate crimes.

Sufia Alam, the manager of the Maryam center at the East London mosque, said it had had reports of Muslim women being verbally abused on buses. Ash Siddique, the secretary of the Al-Madina mosque in Barking, east London, said women coming to the mosque suffered attacks, including one being grabbed around the throat at a bus stop. “We’ve had a number of ladies who have been verbally abused and a number of ladies who have been spat on. We’ve had a couple of telephone calls, physical threats – ‘we are going to attack you’ – and that sort of thing,” said Siddique.

(The Guardian, June 7, 2017)

While earlier (September 2015), the BBC had this to say:

Hate crimes against Muslims in London have risen by 70% in the past year, according to Met Police statistics.

Figures for the 12 months up to July showed 816 Islamophobic crimes, compared with 478 for the previous 12-month period.

Tell MAMA, an organization that monitors Islamophobic attacks, claimed women were the primary targets.

The group told Inside Out London women wearing a face veil were victims of more “aggressive incidents”.

The Met define Islamophobic crime as any offence intended to affect those known or perceived to be Muslim. Reported incidents ranged from cyber-bullying and assaults to extreme violence.

One of the highest increases was in Merton, south west London, which saw a rise from eight incidents in the year to July 2014 up to 29 in the subsequent 12-month period - an increase of 263%.

The borough with the highest number of incidents in the year 2014-15 was Westminster, which had 54 Islamophobic crimes, according to Scotland Yard’s figures.

Cdr Mak Chishty, the force’s lead for hate crime, said: “There are a number of reasons why Muslim women are targeted more than men.

‘No choice’

“Their physical attire obviously says they are Muslim, they are normally by themselves and with children and the cowardice shown by perpetrators is that it is easier to attack a women (sic) with children than it is a man.”

Muslim convert and mother-of-two Joni Clark moved her family from Penge in south east London, to Whitechapel in east London, after suffering several Islamophobic incidents.

“I receive abuse every single day,” she said.

“The attacks affect my children deeply and I fear for their safety so I feel I have no choice but to move.”

Islamophobic crime in London 'up by 70%'

I am asking Mr. Bowman to please forgive me for saying that such facts could hardly describe the perpetrators as: extremely forbearing, indulgent, lenient, merciful or tolerant, as he puts it in his Riyadh newspaper article.

I am almost certain that he made that statement with bona fide intention. But, as the saying goes, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

If - on the other hand - he is unaware of these facts, then he needs to be updated. Here is a useful source issued by the Home Office to that effect.

Hate Crime, England and Wales, 2014/15

Should he resort to the argument that the perpetrators constitute a bunch of eccentric lunatics, the incident described below might suggest otherwise. He might want to read what this retired university professor has to say:

“As an academic, I have lived in the UK with my family (all Saudis) for two decades disseminating knowledge and promoting scientific research, following a long academic career, which draws on the doctorate I obtained in the UK some 40 years ago (paid for in full by Saudi governmental scholarship). We feel the UK is our second home - being the place where my son and his son were born, both of them acquired subsequently British citizenship; where he got educated up to doctoral level.

After all these remarkable achievements and unforgettable experience, my wife and I got treated as persona non-grata at the hands of Heathrow airport immigration officers.

On Friday Nov. 10th 2017, at 5:45 a.m., my wife and I landed at Heathrow airport (Terminal 4) after a 6-hour night flight

(SV 113 operating from Jeddah to London), we got for the first time in our life suspected of being law-breachers, and treated as such for eight solid hours.

A sharp turn of events took place, when as usual, we presented to the immigration officer our passports (the ones that carry our indefinite-leave-to-remain stamp, and newer ones). The fact that my wife was wearing her Muslim scarf over her head apparently provoked subtle tendencies in the officer’s sentiment. This became obvious to us, because in a firm tone, with the sternest face expression imaginable, he asked my wife for all old passports (sic) she had in-between to show the dates indicating all her trips in- and out-of-the-UK. He demanded a proof to show when precisely she last traveled abroad. On countless occasions in the past, we usually give an approximate date. But this time with this officer it is apparently different. He insisted, and my wife could not recall the exact date. The ordeal started there. He took us to what seems to be a detention area for investigation, as he put it. After approximately one hour he returned with an unmistakable triumphant euphoria on his face to declare to us that he will have to detain my wife and confiscate her passports.

The rest of the story of an eight-hour detention is a grill bred by the consequences of an attitude that is apparently skewed by psychotic motivations - ending up with extreme humiliation.”

Organizations dealing with such incidents have already diagnosed the defective attitude by saying:

Tell MAMA said about 60% of Islamophobia victims were women.

Fiyaz Mughal, director of the organisation, said: “We realised that at a street level Muslim women who were visible, and wore the Hijab or the headscarf, were suffering more targeted abuse.” We also realised quite early on that women who wear Niqab, the face veil, suffered more aggressive incidents - there was something about the face veil that in a way brought out the worst in the perpetrator.” (see aforementioned BBC report)

It is remarkable how officials in such positions as Border Force take full advantage of the vulnerability of travelers and exploit the steep official/traveler power-gradient to satisfy certain defects that deserve psychiatric insight. It is not at all surprising that the then Home Secretary, Mrs. Theresa May, demerged the agency in March 2012. As per deontology, the action was right, but does not deserve moral credit, as it took place following severe criticism of the senior management. Further attention is obviously still needed.

I hope that Mr. Bowman sees how unequivocal these facts are, and the need for them to be conveyed to his readers, whom he had addressed in our country. The investors he is inviting to consider the UK market as a safe place deserve his kind attention by putting the record straight.

Expecting to travel frequently to the UK for the sake of the huge investment Mr. Bowman is inviting, they would anticipate fair treatment at the hands of those British persons they have to deal with during their visits, if not extremely forbearing and indulgent, as he described them in his Riyadh newspaper article. Stumbling blocks at the British embassy/consulate, or at the hands of airport officials, would not serve the purpose of Mr. Bowman’s trip.

It would be quite sensible for him to make personal visits to airports, in order to witness how British Border Force and Customs officials treat incoming foreign travelers, and how to ameliorate their defective personal conduct. He might discover that intensive training sessions, or perhaps psychiatric intervention, are needed to that effect.

At any rate, Mr. Bowman needs to understand very clearly that Saudis do not compromise their dignity – not even for the sake of His Excellency the Lord Mayor of London.

Dr. Amin Kashmeery

The author is Emeritus Professor of Physiology, and Former Head of Bioethics Section at King Saud Bin Abdulaziz University for Health Sciences, Jeddah/Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. He can be contacted at: oxforefo@yahoo.com


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