Islamophobia Awareness Month: what NUS is up to

Wednesday 01-11-2017 - 08:37

Today marks the start of Islamophobia Awareness Month. Some of our officers have teamed up to organise a series of events and launch the Muslim Students' Survey.   

November marks the beginning of Islamophobia Awareness Month and for many within the Muslim community, it is an opportunity to speak openly about their experiences of discrimination in British society. 

From state censorship under the guise of counter-terrorism, to the verbal and physical harassment experienced by Muslims in public spaces - there is no denying that Islamophobia and systematic racism is a key component of what it means to be Muslim in Britain today.

We are facing discrimination at every turn - be in on the streets, our educational institutions, or our workplaces.

For one, the Muslim community is described as the most economically disadvantaged group in the country - with almost 50 percent of the Muslim population living in the ten most deprived local authorities. A report by the Social Mobility Commission this year found that young Muslims living in the UK face an enormous social mobility challenge and are being held back from reaching their full potential at every stage of their lives: they are more likely to drop out of their studies, less likely to acquire “good degrees” (a 1st or a 2:1), and more likely to be unemployed.

The daily realities of Muslim women go further in highlighting such patterns of discrimination. They are experiencing the greatest pay gap in the country, they are 71 percent more likely to be unemployed than their white Christian counterparts (even with the same level of education and language skills) and they are experiencing the “triple penalty” that comes with being a woman, a person of colour and a Muslim.

We mustn’t forget, however, that these inequalities are rooted and reflected in every aspect of the British Muslim experience (and felt two-folds by those who identify as black and/or as women). Muslim women in prisons, for example, face a unique combination of stigma and discrimination from fellow prisoners, staff and from amongst their own communities.

Here at NUS, we are organising a series of events to help raise awareness of the of the day-to-day realities experienced by British Muslims students. We’ll be running a Gendered Islamophobia Tour to platform the voices of Muslim women and hosting another round of the Students Not Suspects tour that aims to organise against the implementation of the draconian Prevent policy – the month will be jam-packed with events and initiatives that seek to create a broader discussion on how issues of gender, race and class are intrinsically linked to the Muslim identity.

The tours are expected to take place across the UK, in cities including London, Leeds, Manchester, Sheffield, Oxford, Cambridge, and Glasgow (we’ll also be in Dublin). Speakers will include people from a wide array of backgrounds - from grassroots activists like Zamzam Ibrahim to poets and performers such as Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan and Momtaza Mehri.

We will be launching the Muslim Students’ Survey on Thursday 9th November to record the individual experiences of Muslim students and sabbatical officers from around the country. In the last year, we have seen a concerted effort by the press to undermine prominent Muslim figures, as well as coordinated attacks on young Muslim activists (predominantly black Muslims). We hope this survey will capture the precarious position that many Muslims find themselves in and we will produce a set of recommendations for students’ unions on how best to support their Muslim sabbatical officers and Muslim students as a whole.

The month will culminate with the Muslim Women in Leadership event, organised by the NUS Women’s Campaign, taking place on Tuesday 5 December.

We hope this month is one where you can learn, and more importantly, reflect on how best to support those experiencing Islamophobia around you. And to those who identify as Muslim, please don’t be afraid to reach out to us if you require any support.

We leave you with some words from the Qur’an: Verily, with every hardship comes ease (94:5).

In solidarity,

Hareem Ghani, Women’s Officer
Ilyas Nagdee, Black Students’ Officer
Ali Milani, VP Union Development



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