Guilty Until Proven Not Muslim
I saw the image above posted on a Facebook page and smiled. Then I immediately became concerned about the truth behind the words displayed. The suspicion that surrounds Muslims is real and a major concern – it actually helps sell newspapers every single day.
When asked whether winning the Olympic 10,000 metres gold would have meant more had he won it for the country of his birth, Somalia, Mo Farah immediately responded: ‘Not at all, mate. This is my country and since I was eight years old this is where I grew up. This is where I started life. This is where I went to uni. This is where the people I know are, this is my country and when I put on my Great Britain vest I’m proud, very proud, that it’s my country.’ Mo Farah has been representing Great Britain from the outset of his running career and so even with all the talk surrounding ‘Plastic-Brits‘ the question came as a surprise. Who knows the intention of the journalist asking Farah that question – it may not have been sinister but Farah’s victory and the question asked by the journalist and of course, Farah’s assertive response, provided a good opportunity for the issue to be raised in the media during the Olympics.
Identity is quite a difficult concept to define but allegiance isn’t. Identity is determined by a number of variables – religion and ethnicity for example. The suspicion directed towards British Muslims, in part, concerns their allegiance – is their allegiance to Great Britain or to Islam and a global Ummah? Or is to to fellow Muslims ‘back home’? You’d have thought that with five Muslim Olympians in Team GB this summer, the issue would have been forgotten by now. Research carried out by the Institute for Social and Economic Research found that “ethnic minorities living in the UK feel more British than white Britons”, but despite this Islamophobia continues.
However, Farah has largely been accepted as a true Brit – there’s talk of him being knighted and he’ll be in the mix for Sports Personality of the Year. This is not the case for many others who are identified as Muslims first despite them being born and bred in the UK, unlike Farah who came to Britain aged eight. Two men recently arrested for a possible terror plot were identified as ‘Muslim converts’ and with absolutely no reference to their race or ethnicity, and spying on Islamic societies in universities is common.
Even ‘liberal Muslims’ are playing their part in aiding this Islamophobia. The Quilliam Foundation, upon hearing news of the atrocities perpetrated by Anders Breivik in Norway in 2011, were quick to tweet that it was Muslims behind the attack and possibly backed by Libya’s Colonel Gaddafi. This is the same behaviour we’ve come to expect from the likes of the Sun and the Daily Mail and fuels distrust of Muslims. It took the Quilliam Foundation 15 tweets before they recognised that it could have been carried out by someone other than an Islamist. ‘Evidence’ tweeted by the Quilliam Foundation to support their view included “Gaddafi also recently threatened attacks in mainland Europe” and “Gaddafi does have a track record of setting off bombs in Europe and he is a desperate man”.
The aura of suspicion directed towards British Muslims is not new and one that is prevalent in the UK, fuelling (along with open racism and Islamophobia) the rise of groups such as the English Defence League. Their figurehead Stephen Yaxley-Lennon thinks all Muslim men are paedophiles and warns the world of #creepingsharia. Weirdly, Robinson does seem to have a soft spot for one British Muslim – commentator Mo Ansar who invited Robinson to dinner at his home after a TV debate. Robinson after the dinner tweeted: “I swear mo ansar is reading a diff koran to most other muslims?”
Lennon also tweeted this about Mo Farah:
If you read the tweet again, Robinson is actually congratulating Farah on deciding not to fast, i.e. Lennon thinks that Farah is putting Islam second unlike other Muslims in Britain. This is obviously not true – the decision by Farah not to fast is a personal one and won’t affect his ‘Britishness’ and I doubt Lennon is even aware of the exemption from fasting that Muslims athletes are permitted. Robinson is perhaps also blind to the fact that Farah raised his arms and praised Allah upon crossing the winning line – a clear statement of his ‘Muslimness’. Mo Farah epitomises what a British-Muslim is.