We cannot sit back, because it isn’t happening to us personally

We hear from Rosita Ellis, chair of the regional Black members committee, during Islamophobia Awareness Month

Held every November, Islamophobia Awareness Month (IAM) aims to work with Police and Crime Commissioners (PCC), local councils and community organisations to raise awareness of the threat of Islamophobia and encourage better reporting of incidents to the police. The NHS is also involved with the campaign.

The campaign raises awareness within society of how Muslims are discriminated against in various spheres, along with providing information on the positive contributions of British Muslims to the UK. It helps break down barriers and challenge incorrect stereotypes people may hold about Muslims, as well as providing an avenue for people of other backgrounds to engage with Muslims. IAM also highlights why it is crucial for Muslims to report Islamophobic hate crimes to authorities, for accurate data to be collected and for policy changes to be enacted accordingly.

Recent reports from Hope not Hate show a continuation in online Islamophobia, with global events such as the 2019 Christchurch terrorist attack leading to spikes in online threats to Muslims.

Home office figures* for 2017-18 show a continued rise in recorded hate crime year on year, with a worrying rise of 40% for religious hate crime. This is believed to be linked to the terrorist attacks in the UK in 2017.

We spoke to Rosita Ellis, chair of the Regional Black Members Committee on why this campaign is important.

“Islamophobia is a hate crime, Muslims are attacked because of their religion and beliefs. They can be badly treated, insulted or even physically hurt. Islamophobia is a manifestation of racism and xenophobia. It falls in the same category as all types of discrimination against people who are different.

“We cannot sit back, because it isn’t happening to us personally. We cannot ignore the problem, because our children, parents, families and relative are not victims.

“We as UNISON members need to work together with Muslim communities to combat Islamophobia and we need to encourage people to report every Islamophobic incident to the police.

“It is important to allow others to understand that Islamophobia is a problem for everyone in society, not just Muslims. Racism which exists in any society is a smear on that society, especially when nothing is done about it. Everyone needs to understand the importance of having a cohesive society. This can’t happen when discrimination is rife.”

UNISON works with a number of anti-racism organisations, including Hope not Hate and Show Racism the Red Card, who provide anti-racist education to schools and communities.