This Islamophobia Awareness Month, the APPG wants to draw the UK Government’s attention to the ways in which restrictions on the right to freedom of religion or belief can disproportionately affect Muslims. Many Muslims globally face challenges to their exercising of their freedom of religion or belief due to the discrimination, Islamophobia, or anti-Muslim hatred they face.
The APPG FoRB notes with increasing concern the situation in Xinjiang, China, where Uyghur Muslims have a myriad of human rights violated. The APPG asks that the Government recognises such violations as a genocide and ensure goods produced through China’s profiting from the forced labour of Uyghur people does not enter the UK supply chain.
The APPG also expresses concern for the Rohingya Muslims who have been driven out of Myanmar and now seek refuge in Bangladesh. All too often they face discrimination and suspicion because of their religion. The Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, Mr. Ahmed Shaheed, reported in March of this year that “unchecked Buddhist nationalists peddling the view that Islam threatens to ‘overrun’ the country and that Buddhists must stand up and ‘save’ their way of life have contributed to egregious atrocities against Rohingya Muslims.” Hundreds of mosques, shrines, and Muslim cemeteries in Myanmar have been destroyed.
Finally, the APPG notes that digital media also plays a role in the spreading of harmful stereotypes about Muslims and Islam, and that COVID-19 has provided a catalyst for such online abuse. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, online manifestations of harmful Muslim stereotypes have spread. In India, #coronajihad went viral on Twitter after the Government announced high levels of infection among the Muslim community. Similarly, in Sri Lanka misinformation circulated online that Muslims deliberately disseminated COVID-19 in the country. The APPG calls on the Government to work with social media companies to ensure that safeguards are put in place to protect vulnerable communities from targeted online hate speech, abuse, and the spread of nefarious misinformation.
Islamophobia/anti-Muslim hatred remains poorly understood and discussions on how to address its effects are often fraught with tension. As such, the APPG calls on the UK Government to persevere in cross-party efforts when it comes to this issue. As the Special Rapporteur has noted, “a nuanced approach to understanding Islamophobia will be critical to ensuring that the relevant educational, social and policy responses are identified to effectively address a complex and context-specific challenge, in conformity with international human rights laws and standards.”