Farah Elahi is a research and policy analyst for the British think-tank Runnymede Trust which just released an important study on the impact of anti-Muslim racism on British society and the need to label it as such (click here for story). In this op-ed for the Guardian, Ms. Elahi writes about her own personal experiences as a British Muslim person and pointedly states: “Let’s be clear: Muslims are neither good nor bad. We’re just human.”
Here are some snippets from the insightful op-ed:
Growing up I was painfully shy and keen to be seen as good. But all my years being a “good” kid seemed to conflict with the prevailing messages that Muslims were deviant and worthy of suspicion; and that Muslim women in particular lacked agency. How I saw myself was at odds with how I was “seen” by others. The past 16 years have involved a lot of questioning and reflecting, both in terms of what it means to be “good”, but also on the various racist myths about Muslims….
The main difficulty is that Islamophobia is so poorly understood. Instead of focusing on the harm experienced by British Muslims, Islamophobia is commonly dismissed by arguing that you can’t be racist against a set of ideas…
The drip-drip demonising of Muslim communities seeps into the everyday experiences of individuals. It manifests itself when they apply for jobs and their CV isn’t considered because of the assumption that they won’t “fit in”; when they visit a doctor and the health professional makes assumptions about their lifestyle and their “conservative” family; when no one will sit next to them on the tube or they are verbally or physically assaulted for looking Muslim.
We should not attribute collective responsibility for crimes on the basis of shared group identity. But we should also stop trying to prove the worth of Muslim individuals by showing how fast they run, how well they bake or how much they give to charity. British Muslims are not exceptional in vice or virtue. We’re just human.