A charity for young Muslims hosted an evening of poetry, film and discussion last night to celebrate a report on the place of Muslims in British society.
Jawaab launched Voices of Young Muslims: building a society free of Islamophobia, which seeks to change the narrative around British Muslim identity from “homogeneity to heterogeneity”.
“We’ve been hearing it for a long time. Muslims are not a monolith, Muslims are a diverse community, we shouldn’t homogenise them; well how about we live that?” said Dr Farrah Sheikh, author of the report.
“I think that’s partly what this event was about, you’ll have seen from the speakers and artists that it was a very diverse group and it was in a way to show that we all occupy this space of being Muslim in very different ways.”
A number of volunteer researchers worked on the report to explore themes around Islamophobia, Muslim women, identity and generational changes. Data gathered on the experiences of Muslims in Britain found that 61 per cent of people interviewed reported personal experiences of Islamophobia, or knew someone who had experienced it. The research also found that 43 per cent of participants felt conflicted in their identities.
To tackle this, Jawaab’s event, at Amnesty International UK in Shoreditch, showcased the diversity among the people it worked with. From poetry about Muslims in the LGBT community to discussions on race, the evening celebrated the differences that represent Britain’s Muslim population. The event was topped by a moving tribute to Khadija Saye, an activist and volunteer for Jawaab who died in the Grenfell Tower fire.
Sheikh is confident that the conversation now emerging around Muslim identity is moving in the right direction, but she is wary that incidents like the terrorist attacks on Westminster Bridge can skew people’s views:
“Acts of Muslim-perpetrated violence: we’re not going to shy away from it, it is a thing, but one has to put those figures into context and there is a global context to this type of violence. If we’re going to tie it solely to Islam and to Muslims, of course we’re going to start vilifying a whole group of people.”