Muslims have been caught off guard final week, when the UK authorities abruptly 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.
Native politicians and Muslim leaders criticized the timing of the announcement.
“The timing … it targeted folks’s minds [on Muslims],” Rabnawaz Akbar, a Labour Get together councilor in Manchester, informed CNN.
The federal government “have performed it on the eve of Eid,” main folks to suppose “it should be the Muslim group’s fault,” Akbar stated. “You see how folks would have come to the idea. [The government] have performed it with out considering however after all, they’re highlighting a selected demographic. And individuals are offended and now that anger is concentrated on a selected group.”
A Downing Avenue spokesperson stated in a press release to CNN: “Selections on lockdowns are based mostly solely on scientific recommendation and the most recent knowledge. The place there are native outbreaks, our precedence will stay taking no matter steps are mandatory to guard folks.”
Akbar additionally criticized Craig Whittaker, a Conservative MP who steered that England’s ethnic minorities weren’t adhering to pandemic pointers.
“What I’ve seen in my constituency is that we’ve got areas of our group … which are simply not taking the pandemic significantly sufficient,” 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: “In fact.”
“When you take a look at the areas the place we have seen rises and instances the overwhelming majority — not, by any stretch of the creativeness, all areas — however it’s the BAME [Black, Asian, and minority ethnic] communities that aren’t taking it significantly sufficient,” 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: “Nicely, I feel it is as much as all of us in authorities to be sure that the message is being heard loud and clear by everyone throughout the nation, and to be sure that everyone is complying with the steering.”
This week, the Downing Avenue spokesperson informed CNN: “At Friday’s press convention the Prime Minister apologized to all those that couldn’t have a good time Eid in the way in which that they had wished, and thanked the work of mosques and imams in getting the message out in regards to the significance of following security steering.
“And he set out in his Eid message that he’s vastly grateful to the Muslim group for his or her efforts and sacrifices all through this pandemic.”
“To single out one group this manner is wholly improper, stigmatizing and unbecoming of an MP,” the group stated in a press release.
Following the controversy, Whittaker stated his proof was based mostly on knowledge 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.
Inform MAMA director Iman Atta informed CNN that far-right extremists had been blaming Muslims for the pandemic for the reason that starting of the UK’s lockdown in March.
“In March, April, Could, we noticed a variety of conspiracy theories floating round,” she stated. “The far proper have been sharing images of Muslims congregating and flouting the principles at mosques which have been, in actuality, shut down and never functioning. The images have been from final 12 months,” she stated.
“And so they have 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, informed CNN.
Gulamali added that she was dissatisfied that Johnson and his Conservative Get together 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 girls sporting burqas. The politician stated girls 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 during the last twenty or thirty years once 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 induced.”
Crime figures recommend that the UK has turn into a extra hostile place for Muslims lately. Regardless of accounting for lower than 5% of the UK’s 66 million-strong inhabitants, 52% of non secular hate crime offenses dedicated in England and Wales between 2017 and 2018 focused Muslims.
A lot of the latest blame positioned on Muslims seems to be pushed by the truth that Covid-19 has hit the nation’s ethnic minorities onerous.
“There’s in depth racist commentary on social media,” the researchers wrote. “Movies have additionally been circulated on social media exhibiting the South Asian group flouting social distancing in an try to stir battle.”
“We do not wish to sweep beneath the carpet the problems that [Muslim communities] do face,” Rabnawaz Akbar stated.
“Lots of people stay in densely-populated terraced housing,” he stated, explaining that many Muslims “stay with their mother and father or their grandparents, so you might have multigenerational households. Lots of people work in low earnings and frontline jobs — they’re taxi drivers or well being care [workers] … they’re inevitably going to be vulnerable to catching the virus.”
“However somewhat than blame them, the answer is that native and central authorities ought to work with the communities to take further precautions,” he stated.
Muslims are removed from alone in shouldering elevated racial resentment in the course of the Covid-19 disaster.
For a lot of minorities the brand new risk of the pandemic has solely intensified the age-old hazard of bigotry.