Race, Religion & Free Speech

This event was hosted on Tuesday 24th November 2015 12.30 – 2pm, Room Lecture Theatre C, London College of Communication. 

The last few SoN events centred around race, religion and free speech.

In the pre-panel interview, panelist Aaqil Ahmed expressed his ideas on how the media portrays Muslim folk and people of colour. Issues such as linking brown people to terrorism hits home for most of us who have immigrated from Muslim countries. It is a very harmful attitude to link a religion directly to the extremists and consequently create stereotypes based on what is seen in the media—in large part run by people who might not directly relate to issues that minorities face: including non-white ethnicities, LGBTQA folk and women. If you’re a person who fits into those categories, then you may have experienced firsthand a lack of relevant coverage in the media.

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Working Harder

Ethnic minorities in the UK have to work harder, only to receive a minimum level of support from institutions such as universities. Research shows students of colour have lower grades and become tokens on lists of successful alumni.

Working harder as a person of colour seems to be the reality when you look around in your class and only discern three POCs out of a group of 40. Did we work harder to get here because of our background which we had no choice over? What happened to those other people of colour who didn’t get the chance of having a place in our art class? What are the reasons they failed to be accepted on the course? It’s hard to believe that only three students of colour applied for an art course. Why would such low amount of students of colour dare to apply? Fear of rejection and differences?

As students, we are not told much regarding the university’s acceptance process, but why is it that when I go around my university I see certain amounts of ethnicities? And those numbers seem to stay the same each new academic year!

 

Religious Literacy

Brown skin is advertised as linked to terrorism, largely due to Western media. Not only our skin, but our names and culture which we are very proud of have become points of worry and hatred for people who live so far away from the issue. Fear of terrorism created by broadcast media has built a wall between people, making the lives of both sides harder. Muslim folk are frequently linked to Daesh without the realisation that they are as frightened as anyone else. What the media fails to acknowledge is the dichotomy between British and non-British created due to the incorrect representation of our people. It fails to realise its responsibility for children being bullied in school because they “look Muslim”. The lives of rising students are at risk, as they are seen as dangerous or not worthy of the chance to achieve a degree.

Muslim Boy’s ‘Terrorist House’ Spelling Error Leads To Lancashire Police Investigation

1 in 5 Brit Muslims’ sympathy for jihadis

Widespread public reaction that included allegations of racial profiling and Islamophobia when a 14-year-old boy, Ahmed Mohamed, was arrested at MacArthur High School in Irving, Texas for bringing an alleged hoax bomb to school.


There are also ways of making student’s lives more difficult on campus such as the

Further systems have made students’ lives more difficult on campus, such as the government’s Prevent strategy, which was created to prevent students from being drawn towards extremism. It has not been effective, instead claiming pupils as suspects and specifically targeting brown youth with Muslim-sounding names. This has diminished trust between students and their universities.

Find out which actions SUARTS took against this: SUARTS STATEMENT ON PREVENT

 

Representation

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Lawrence Lartey made an excellent point on representation, specifically on the lack of diversity in broadcast media. When the people who write and tell the news stories come from similar backgrounds—possibly drawing on stereotypes to create attention that sells their story—the true image of people in those stories will be distorted.

 

Social Media

Mainstream media can be biased towards stories projected onto society. However, “Social media has helped certain movements that have just started with a hashtag,” Rimsha Ahmed pointed out. Social media is a vehicle for us to create attention towards our community’s issues in an honest form which broadcast media fails to adhere to.

This past year, via social media, we have learned so much more about problems black communities face in America—information which was not available via broadcast media. The #BlackLivesMatter and #SayHerName campaigns have garnered significant attention, highlighting police brutality in America.

 

Brown Women vs. Patriarchy

Women of colour are, and have been, under attack from many different vantage points. They battle with racism, sexism and with hatred against their religions. Recently, David Cameron directly attacked Muslim women by threatening deportation to immigrants who are not fluent in English, lest they complete an ESOL test—which has recently faced budget cuts. This statement has generated controversy.

Migrant spouses who fail English test may have to leave UK, says Cameron

How do you define a Muslim woman? We know being Muslim means being a follower of Islam. However, this is not the definition everyone goes by when identifying a Muslim woman. If you’re a brown Middle-Eastern woman you’d know what this means from all the times you have been confused with Islam, simply because of owning black hair and brown skin. So how is David Cameron attempting to identify these Muslim women and deport them back to a country they may have escaped from for various reasons?

 

#TraditionallySubmissive

Cameron has called these women “traditionally submissive” which has opened up a large dialogue. This demographic has fought back with power and provided input on the topic. Cameron’s comments stem from prejudice, misogyny, and disrespect to an entire culture. Ironically, the sentiment does not line up with hijab culture, which is often seen in a similar light. Making the decision to wear a hijab is typically one that arrives out of freedom of choice and strength in faith, qualities which are not submissive in any regard.

David Cameron totally patronised Muslim women – here’s how they responded

 

Relating Islam to Extremist Religions

David Cameron’s fear is that because of these women’s lack of English, as mothers they fail to lead their children away from following extremist groups. This solution is a long shot to a problem without a solution as precedent. What Cameron again fails to understand is that the connection of Muslim families to extremist groups creates a harmful perception for the people of the UK.

 

Who is he worried about?

At first glance, it seems although Cameron wants to “help out” these families, however, his Twitter feed suggests that Middle-Easterners are unwanted in the country.

Fear of the unknown is possibly a vehicle for getting rid of unwanted immigrants in the country. But perhaps Cameron is also tired of British people being linked to Muslim extremist groups. It simply doesn’t look good for a future EU-independent and Westernised country.

We need to find a way to end discrimination against our own people, but how can we achieve that when the majority are not given the chance to have the job roles that allow these changes?

Is media—which has created most of these problems—also the solution?