The unthinkable has finally happened. Britain has left the EU, Cameron has stood down as Prime Minister, and Boris and Gove have made their speeches. As stocks fell and the Pound Sterling hit its lowest point in over 30 years, the mood is grim. It’s a dark day in Britain when Nigel Farage is grinning ear to ear and still has the nerve to admit that the Remain campaign’s claim of the NHS receiving £350 million is not going to happen hiding behind being ostracised by the official leave campaign.
The shock of such an unexpected result is reverberating across the country with many members of the public wondering how this could have possibly happened. Perhaps it may have something to do with 15 years of fear-mongering, 6 years of austerity cuts, the othering of both immigrants and working classes by a right-wing media and a weak left-wing party with in-house divisions which have led us to this day. However, it’s not entirely the fault of the political class. Fear-mongering amongst the various communities mean that many voted leave or simply abstained.
British Muslims did their bit to ensure that they voted Remain, but apathy runs deep in a community where education levels are poor and the attachment to cultural practices are far too strong to allow them to feel like they are enough of a participant in the political affairs of this country. Furthermore, the demonisation of Muslims by the media hasn’t helped matters either. Nonetheless, there was still a push amongst British Muslims with 70% voting to stay in and yet there were some factions that were causing confusion by using fallacious arguments encouraging a Leave vote. In fact, one of the UK’s self-declared, number one Muslim social commentary website offered three different perspectives on the outcome of the referendum with the author then declaring that he would vote leave if he wasn’t abstaining. For a supposedly popular website, this was incredibly irresponsible advice especially since voting leave meant also voting with the far-right, Nigel Farage, Britain First and those of their ilk. With such friends, who needs enemies? One has to wonder exactly what it was that these Muslims were hoping to achieve with such pointless pontificating, such as Muslims caring more about the unification of Europe than the unification of Muslim lands, whatever the term means in actuality.
Those Muslims that were against the EU or voting within a democratic process, the obvious argument that there is a risk in an increase in Islamophobia fell on deaf ears. In fact, from some sections of the Muslim community, their xenophobic comments about Eastern Europeans and immigrants were ironically similar to the generalisations made about Muslims. Just as with the referendum itself, the arguments were most visibly discussed and debated by men with little thought to the adverse impact that this will have on Muslim women as they are typically the victims of Islamophobia more than anybody else. Islamophobic attacks have already increased on visibly Muslim women since last year, but the ability for us to be able to be independent through employment will be a big blow. With unfair dismissals and the gender pay-gap still impacting women, Muslim women are more than likely to bear the brunt of what was corrected by EU law to make it a just system.
Nobody seems to have covered how leaving the EU will impact parenting and children, but with many Muslim mothers out there, it will be of little surprise if they and their families are monitored for signs of extremism simply for saying that they need to pray. Furthermore, we seem to have forgotten those Muslim women that suffer domestic abuse; Women’s Aid has already expressed concern about the impact of Brexit on victims with the fear that they will be left vulnerable and less safe than if they were in the EU. The ramifications of this on Muslim women run far deeper as they come from a community which is less likely to expose the threat of abuse, therefore not allowing them to receive the help they so desperately need. If anything, politicians will use the abuse of Muslim women to push their own racist agenda without providing them with any solutions and further alienating them. With now a Brexit on our hands, we can expect Muslim women to not only be vilified by the media and politicians, but by society in general. The visibility of Muslim women means they are far more susceptible to racism and the evidence is already mounting up as reports of xenophobic comments against ethnic minorities are beginning to hit the news.
Unfortunately, we have nobody to blame but ourselves as a community. The most shameful thing about this referendum is how much xenophobia and racism won over inclusivity and a good economy. Moreover, this racist attitude was displayed by much of the Muslim voters who chose to vote leave simply to ensure that the immigrants stay out. The irony being that immigrants (and their children) voted out immigrants.
For those who voted leave for this very reason – when the referendum result is fully implemented and there are no immigrants left to blame, which community do you think will be most likely to be used as a scapegoat? As a marginalised group, we have shot ourselves in the foot to not have campaigned harder for Remain, to not have ensured that every Muslim in the country voted Remain and to not have been visible enough as Remain backers. When the consequences of this monumental public decision takes place fully, we really won’t have anyone to blame but ourselves.
Of course, many people have stated that God is the Greatest Planner. That part is indisputable. But He has also told us that He cannot help a people unless they help themselves. In this case, British Muslims tried, but maybe we didn’t try hard enough.
What is clear, however, is that British Muslims are going to have to stand in solidarity with those who are rejecting austerity, economic disparity and hate driven by anti-immigrant and anti-refugee sentiment.