Leaders in the British Jewish community came together on Tuesday 26th March in London for a briefing on Islamophobia from Dr Omar Khan, director of the race equality think-tank The Runnymede Trust. The meeting was organised by the Jewish Council for Racial Equality (JCORE).
Dr Khan’s briefing sought to highlight the challenges faced by Muslims living in Britain today, and called for communities of different faiths and backgrounds to work together to better understand Islamophobia and to challenge all racisms in society, including antisemitism and anti-Black racism. Participants in the meeting included representatives from the Board of Deputies, the CST, the Council for Christians and Jews, UJS, synagogue organisations and other communal bodies.
Dr Khan spoke about the concepts of Islamophobia and the challenges around defining it. In 2017 the think-tank published a report looking at how Islamophobia has evolved over the past 20 years. They have been concerned with the various ways in which multiple racisms in British society have co-existed and been unchallenged for decades, and Dr Khan argued that the existence of discrimination is a sign of an unjust society.
One of the problems with defining Islamophobia or any other racism only in terms of physical attacks is it gives the impression that racism is committed only by ‘thugs’ on the street. It does not take account of other ‘subtler’ forms of racism such as discrimination faced by people when applying for jobs, online racism or ‘dinner party racism’, all of which are on the increase.
“The best way any racism can be challenged”, said Dr Khan, “is through solidarity and respect between communities to better understand and challenge the different racisms suffered by others as well as those suffered by one’s own community”.
Dr Edie Friedman, Executive Director of JCORE said: “Much has been written about of late about Islamophobia within political parties. We have seen a disturbing increase in Islamophobia since the Christchurch tragedy, which should sound alarm bells for all of us. We need to work together to combat all forms of racism within our communities and wider society.”
The meeting highlighted the various important work being done by many different Jewish organisations to challenge Islamophobia and racism including the CST and the Board of Deputies.