Muslims have been caught off guard final week, when the UK authorities instantly introduced native lockdowns in a slew of areas in northern England the place instances have spiked. The announcement got here simply hours earlier than Eid al-Adha, one of many holiest festivals in Islam.
The restrictions — printed late final Thursday night — banned folks within the named areas from mixing with different households.
Local politicians and Muslim leaders criticized the timing of the announcement.
“The timing … it focused people’s minds [on Muslims],” Rabnawaz Akbar, a Labour Party councilor in Manchester, instructed CNN.
The authorities “have done it on the eve of Eid,” main folks to assume “it must be the Muslim community’s fault,” Akbar stated. “You see how people would have come to the assumption. [The government] have done it without thinking but of course, they’re highlighting a particular demographic. And people are angry and now that anger is focused on a particular community.”
A Downing Street spokesperson stated in an announcement to CNN: “Decisions on lockdowns are based solely on scientific advice and the latest data. Where there are local outbreaks, our priority will remain taking whatever steps are necessary to protect people.”
Akbar additionally criticized Craig Whittaker, a Conservative MP who steered that England’s ethnic minorities weren’t adhering to pandemic tips.
“What I have seen in my constituency is that we have areas of our community … that are just not taking the pandemic seriously enough,” Whittaker stated Friday, when requested in regards to the native lockdowns throughout an interview with LBC radio.
When requested if he was speaking in regards to the Muslim inhabitants, Whittaker replied: “Of course.”
“If you look at the areas where we’ve seen rises and cases the vast majority — not, by any stretch of the imagination, all areas — but it is the BAME [Black, Asian, and minority ethnic] communities that are not taking it seriously enough,” he added.
Whittaker’s feedback have been met with an outcry and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson was requested about them at a press briefing on Friday.
The British chief didn’t condemn the MP, and stated: “Well, I think it’s up to all of us in government to make sure that the message is being heard loud and clear by everybody across the country, and to make sure that everybody is complying with the guidance.”
This week, the Downing Street spokesperson instructed CNN: “At Friday’s press convention the Prime Minister apologized to all those that couldn’t have a good time Eid in the best way they’d wished, and thanked the work of mosques and imams in getting the message out in regards to the significance of following security steerage.
“And he set out in his Eid message that he’s massively grateful to the Muslim group for his or her efforts and sacrifices all through this pandemic.”
“To single out one group this fashion is wholly fallacious, stigmatizing and unbecoming of an MP,” the group stated in an announcement.
Following the controversy, Whittaker stated his proof was primarily based on information from native officers at Calderdale Council in West Yorkshire.
“In an age the place authenticity is a behaviour scarcely exhibited by public figures, I’m glad that I’ve chosen open, sincere and frank dialogue over political expediency and … I make no apology for my feedback,” he added.
Tell MAMA director Iman Atta instructed CNN that far-right extremists had been blaming Muslims for the pandemic because the starting of the UK’s lockdown in March.
“In March, April, May, we noticed a variety of conspiracy theories floating round,” she said. “The far proper have been sharing photographs of Muslims congregating and flouting the foundations at mosques which have been, in actuality, shut down and never functioning. The photographs have been from final yr,” she stated.
“And they’ve unfold rumors on-line about how BAME communities are those spreading the virus, so [people] shouldn’t be interacting with them.”
Atta’s findings are echoed by these of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), which represents a number of UK mosques and Muslim organizations.
Earlier within the lockdown “there have been theories spreading that Muslims would collect secretly throughout Ramadan, that mosques have been secretly open — none of that was true and there was no proof,” Zainab Gulamali, a spokesperson for the group, instructed CNN.
Gulamali added that she was disillusioned that Johnson and his Conservative Party colleagues had did not condemn Whittaker’s feedback on BAME folks.
Johnson himself has repeatedly been accused of Islamophobia. He drew sharp rebukes from Muslim communities in 2018 over an article he wrote about Muslim ladies carrying burqas. The politician stated ladies who wore the veil resembled “letter packing containers” and “financial institution robbers.”
He later provided a partial apology, saying: “In as far as my phrases have given offense over the past twenty or thirty years when I’ve been a journalist and folks have taken these phrases out of my articles and escalated them, after all, I’m sorry for the offense they’ve precipitated.”
Crime figures counsel that the UK has turn into a extra hostile place for Muslims lately. Despite accounting for lower than 5% of the UK’s 66 million-strong inhabitants, 52% of spiritual hate crime offenses dedicated in England and Wales between 2017 and 2018 focused Muslims.
Much of the current blame positioned on Muslims seems to be pushed by the truth that Covid-19 has hit the nation’s ethnic minorities exhausting.
“There is in depth racist commentary on social media,” the researchers wrote. “Videos have additionally been circulated on social media displaying the South Asian group flouting social distancing in an try and stir battle.”
“We do not wish to sweep below the carpet the problems that [Muslim communities] do face,” Rabnawaz Akbar stated.
“Lots of people reside in densely-populated terraced housing,” he said, explaining that many Muslims “reside with their dad and mom or their grandparents, so you’ve multigenerational households. Lots of people work in low revenue and frontline jobs — they’re taxi drivers or well being care [workers] … they’re inevitably going to be prone to catching the virus.”
“But quite than blame them, the answer is that native and central authorities ought to work with the communities to take additional precautions,” he stated.
Muslims are removed from alone in shouldering elevated racial resentment in the course of the Covid-19 disaster.
For many minorities the brand new menace of the pandemic has solely intensified the age-old hazard of bigotry.