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OPINION: An Exodus of British Muslims is Happening Right Under Our Noses – and Still We’re Asking Whether Islamophobia Exists

SHAYMA BAKHT — British Muslims – many who have lived here for generations – are packing up their belongings, parting ways with their loved ones, established careers and the country they were born in to move to somewhere safer. In recent years, the rates of hate crimes against religious minorities in the UK has rocketed, and for some, it has just become too dangerous to stay.

There is an exodus happening in Britain, and no one has even blinked an eye. Contrary to the mainstream narrative that veiled and bearded people are flooding through our borders, a significant number of Muslims are leaving their homeland because of rising rates of targeted religious hate crimes. Despite this reality, harmful discourse in the media, politics and places of power continues to contribute to an increasingly hostile environment that is driving British Muslims away.

Within the British Islamic community, the belief that the EU referendum and the appointment of Boris Johnson as prime minister are to blame for a rise in Islamophobic attacks is widespread. According to TellMama’s latest report, this is not a total misconception. There was a 475 per cent increase in attacks against Muslims following the referendum result, and after Boris Johnson’s comment calling veiled Muslim women “letterboxes” in 2018, anti-Muslim attacks increased by 375 per cent the next week. While Johnson has apologized for “hurt and offense” caused by the Conservative party, who have been accused of Islamophobia more than once, this issue is greater than the individual assailants of hate crimes. Attackers are emboldened by the people in power who continue to fuel their hate with thoughtless and provocative words.

There have been 3,500 police-recorded crimes (and the hundreds unreported) that only target this religious group.

The government’s failure to spend the entirety of the £1.6m allocated to protect mosques across the UK, which is in itself a small amount of money given the scale of the issue, is one of many reasons that Muslims are not able to feel safe in this country.

There appears to be a systematic discrimination in the UK, which trickles from the top downwards, and is reproduced through mainstream media outlets. At risk is the losing of Muslim journalists, doctors, business people, humanitarians, restaurateurs, academics, carers, partners and friends who have helped build the diverse nation since the 19th century. In their place, the radical alt-right may flourish instead.

The original article appeared in The Independent.