How Moral and Spiritual Values Can Overcome Racism and Islamophobia

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We can’t tackle this enemy of racism without the government, civic society and every citizen working together. The anti-racist laws are crucial, but we must live by moral and spiritual values. Racism is a result of arrogance, a sense of superiority and denial of our common humanity. Here I equate racism with Islamophobia, why? Because the majority of Muslims identify themselves as Muslim first and then their country of origin.

Confronting the shadows of racism in political dialogue

We have witnessed with horror many politicians making gibes or even overt racist comments against Muslims. It’s a sad commentary on our political landscape. That’s why it’s time to demand an end to racism in government. Last week Lee Anderson Tory vice-chair made derogatory comments about Sadiq Khan the Mayor of London. He said, “he was being controlled by the Islamists”. The PM Rishi Sunak said, “He was wrong”. But refused to call him a racist or an Islamophobe.

The Tory party’s far-right faction still believes in Enoch Powell’s ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech. Unfortunately, they haven’t moved on since the 1970s, yet the world has changed. Will the Sunak government ever crack down on these extremists? This furore broke out in response to pro-Palestine demonstrations against Israel’s ongoing genocide of innocent Gazans. The far-right wants to ban these peaceful protests.

Is there an agreed definition of Islamophobia? Yes, “Islamophobia is a direct or indirect act(s) of hatred and discrimination against people (individuals or groups) of the Islamic faith on grounds of their belief and practice” (Bradford City Council, 2019). Understanding its various forms can help us to avoid racism. We are often judgemental about others, so we discriminate, and we have a terrible sense of othering and subconscious biases.

What is racism?

Racism covers individual and group prejudices and acts of discrimination that result in material and cultural advantages to the dominant social group or the majority group. It’s the belief that some people because of their colour possess different behavioural traits and therefore are superior to others, an example is “white racism” where white populations are the majority. White racism is an aggregate of material and cultural advantages. Racism arose in Europe during the colonial period and grew with capitalism and the Atlantic slave trade. It was the major force behind racial segregation in the USA and the apartheid of South Africa.

Islam rejects racism

The Majestic Quran rejects racism and teaches the equality of the world: “People, we created you from a male and female; then made you into different races and tribes so you may know each other. The most honourable in Allah’s sight is the most mindful of Him, the Knower, the Aware” (Al-Hujjarat:13). All humans irrespective of race or colour or country are honoured.

The idea of tribal/racial superiority was rejected by the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) in the farewell sermon where he said: “People, you are all from Adam and came from dust. No Arab is preferred over a non-Arab except by his piety”. He demonstrated this equality by having in his company; Bilal the African, Suhaib the Roman, Salman the Persian, Abdus-Salam the Israelite etc. The Messenger (peace be upon him) once heard Abu Dharr Al-Ghaffari call Bilal ‘son of a black woman’ (insultingly), and he (peace be upon him) reprimanded him saying “This is a sign of your ignorance”. Abu Dharr felt remorse and laid himself on the ground and asked Bilal to put his foot over his head.

Why is racism dangerous and evil?

Racism can have devastating consequences. Racism rests on two assumptions:

  1. That a correlation exists between physical characteristics and behaviours.
  2. People can be of superior and inferior stocks.

Most genocides in history were due to this wicked ideology; the Holocaust; the Rwandan massacre; the massacre of Bosnian Muslims; the colonial European projects of occupying Africa, Asia, Americas, and the catastrophe of the Palestinians.

Racism jeopardises social harmony and economic growth

Institutional racism is racial discrimination by governments, corporations, religions or educational institutions with the power to influence the lives of many individuals. Consequently, the organisation fails to serve all people adequately because of their colour, creed, or race.

Othering is a term used to describe a system of discrimination whereby the characteristics of a group are used to distinguish them as separate from the normal. Othering plays a role in the continuation of racism. To categorise another culture as underdeveloped is to say it is not like ‘our normal’ society. Subconscious biases are prevalent, even though some consciously claim to reject racism. Yet they exhibit race-based subconscious biases in their decisions. While such ‘subconscious racial biases’ do not fully fit the definition of racism, their impact can be similar, though less pronounced, not explicit, conscious or deliberate.

Statement from HumanKind Nottingham

As the founder of HumanKind, I want to make our stance against racism and Islamophobia clear and stress the need for uniting against this scourge. At the heart of our work is fostering good community relations, standing together for justice and truth, for our security and peace. We must challenge the injustices against everyone. We believe that racism in all its ugly forms is against human dignity. We stand in solidarity with those who protest peacefully against racism. We ask all peace-loving people to pray for peace in our global village. We want to build a community of peacemakers and forgivers.