“But you must keep quiet about challenging homophobia or anti-Semitism.” That was just one comment that was made to me when I founded Tell MAMA. The person was not inherently bad, but their views were destructive: he wanted us to keep quiet on issues of prejudice and bigotry on the assumption that it would cause us to lose support in Muslim communities.
Needless to say he was wrong. He had also ignored one of the most powerful tools for combatting hatred: solidarity. The truth is that whilst we focus on Islamophobia, tackling hatred and prejudice in strong partnership with other communities remains key to our work.
Many forget that there were two founding communities to tackle hate crime. The first was the family of Stephen Lawrence, the young British African Caribbean male murdered in his prime at a bus stop in South London. His murder and the monumental campaigning by his parents led to the MacPherson report which seeded the roots of third party hate crime agencies. Then for decades, there was work within Jewish communities with organisations such as CST pioneering efforts around community protection. Jewish communities have always realised that to tackle hatred, you need to measure, monitor and call it out.
Given that today, hatred, intolerance and prejudice change shape and traverse global boundaries, more than ever, we need to stand together and challenge such issues and groups where we find them, whether beyond or within the communities we serve. Some of these discussions may be challenging given that they take place within, though our fundamental human rights based values should be the founding basis on which we stand on in this work and which transcend communities and which cross all boundaries. This is why we work where we can with the Community Security Trust, GALOP and other hate crime agencies that tackle anti-Semitism and LGBT hatred. Not only does standing together make us stronger but it also recognises the complexity and intersectionality of identities in the UK today.
Islamist and far right extremism have a common desire to tear communities apart. This will not happen, but we cannot afford to lose any more lives to those driven by hatred. More than ever, we need to redouble our efforts, join others, and stand up for values that protect the dignity of all.
Fiyaz Mughal is the Director of Faith Matters, a not for profit organisation that works on countering hate crimes and extremism. It also works on community integration projects. Fiyaz was also the Founder of Tell MAMA and Director from 2011-2016.