Typical Sunday night, scrolling through Instagram procrastinating, when I saw a social influencer post a bikini-bod pic at Burj al Arab in Dubai. Now it’s fair to say that Dubai has been flexing on the rest of the world for years, with their Ferrari police cars and multi-story malls with ski slopes inside. But the media hardly mentions the fact that it is an Islamic country (unless there’s a negative connotation to it). There are thousands of mosques in Dubai alone and you will definitely not find sausage and mash on any menu, yet we don’t compare the UAE to other states. The United Arab Emirates is an Islamic country and both visitors and expats are obligated to make it an absolute priority to respect the laws and customs. Following my recent trip to the UAE, it had me begging the question ‘why is it OK to integrate with Islam here, but not at home?’. Is it because we are so soaked up in the artificial realm of Rolex’s and Rolls Royce’s that we pick and choose when Islam is considered acceptable?
It seems that we embrace Islam simply when it suits us. People fly all over the globe with Emirates business class, with Muslim pilots and air stewards. Most flights even have Muslim-majority passengers due to connections in Doha, Dubai and Abu Dhabi. I know from my experience on a flight from Doha to Denpasar, Qatar airways do a prayer in Arabic before the plane takes off and not one person bats an eyelid. However, when we have a passenger texting in Arabic on an Easyjet flight to Italy, they are accused of holding ISIS material and booted off the plane. It just doesn’t make sense.
Just to be clear, the definition of Islamophobia is the discrimination of muslims, but it can also affect Hindus, Sikhs and people of colour in general. It is manifested within all aspects of life through work, school and media. Islamophobia is becoming embedded in British politics, and restrictions on immigration became a flagship policy during the Brexit campaign. The Manchester concert bombing in 2017 resulted in an increased amount of attacks on muslims (in particular Hijabi women).
Coming from an Irish family, I’ve heard stories about my family members facing discrimination in all forms during the 1980s. Being labelled as terrorists and militants- and not being able to talk in public, in fear that their accent would get them murdered. The IRA attack in Manchester happened 22 years ago and left devastating effects on relations between the Brits and the Irish. But we can see how far we have moved on since then. Irish accents are now desired and Irish actors are voted sexiest men alive. It is sometimes hard to remember the times where Irish people were not welcome in our country. Therefore, why isn’t the ‘forgive and forget’ process happening for Muslims as well? The horrors of 9/11 happened 18 years ago, and yet people still get uneasy by sitting next to a woman in a headscarf on the bus.
Another reason why this was brought to my attention is that people tend to separate their own Muslim friends from Muslims in general in the UK. Islam is the second largest religion in the country, yet it only makes up a small percentage of our population. We have Muslims in our social circle, whether it be friendships or work relationships, and it’s as though they don’t apply to the perception that we have of Islam in our minds. Yet they follow the exact same belief. Therefore when tragedy strikes, people are quick to share the ‘Britain First’ posts on Facebook (an anti-immigrant social page), but they forget that it will be seen by their Muslim friends on social media. It seems that we are not prejudice when Islam is in our daily lives in the form of friendships and non-Muslims are comfortable with this dynamic. Therefore is there a way we can merge Islam more in our daily lives in order to break the division?
It has been 78 years since the beginning of the Holocaust and yet it seems that society has not stepped forward. In fact, we have actually stepped back, right back into the time where ‘The Jewish Question’ was put into consideration. Except this time, the target has changed. The amount of hatred and prejudice in our hearts for one another is extremely alarming. Electing world leaders that issue travel bans on Muslims and police forcing modest women to undress on the beach. People are completely separating the ‘Spend Arab’ lifestyle in Dubai with the actual foundations of Islam.
If you were completely against something, it would be unconditional. You wouldn’t be a vegan, and then eat a lamb. So why discriminate a Pakistani-Muslim, and then order a chicken biryani? Why be racist, then support Mo Salah? We can’t just pick and choose what to support and what to reject. Don’t shout “go back to your own country” and then caption your selfie with “Take me back to Dubai”. Although these things mentioned are merely cultural, they still have indirect links to Muslims and people are still categorizing them as a whole. The rich and famous glorifying Dubai over social media is fueling people to copy, therefore why can’t we use social media in a more tactful way to encourage peace and debunk prejudice? As the new year quickly approaches and the Brexit deals are negotiated, we must seriously protect our British Muslim community from all acts of Islamophobia. The problem is that people are separating Islam with the likes of Dubai because of how it is perceived. How do we break the confusion to non-Muslim Brits that the Muslim community are British too?