Stand up to Racism confronts Islamophobia in Newham at meeting with councillors

Councillors, campaigners and residents met to discuss Islamophobia in Stratford on Friday, Picture:

Councillors, campaigners and residents met to discuss Islamophobia in Stratford on Friday, Picture: Robert Ferguson - Credit: Archant

More than 50 people attended a meeting about confronting Islamophobia in Stratford on Friday night.

Newham’s Stand up to Racism held an open discussion with councillors, campaigners and residents in St John’s Church to discuss how to reduce targeted racism in the borough.

It came following a joint statement from Newham’s Stand Up To Racism and Newham Muslim Women’s Association, which called for the defence of Muslim women and an end to the demonisation of the Hijab.

Councillor Mas Patel said: “We have today a build up of attitudes similar to that which Jews faced in the 1930s. When the state targets a particular community, that is wrong. What we have now is the respectability of Islamophobia.”

One of the key themes was the now-overturned Hijab ban in St Stephen’s School, which faced huge backlash within Newham and gained the attention of councillors and ministers city-wide.

Talha Ahmad from the Muslim Council of Britain condemned the ban, arguing a “climate of fear” had been created by these types of policies.

Maz Saleem, whose father was murdered by far-right terrorist Pavlo Lapshyn in 2013, said: “This risks reinforcing an anti-Muslim political culture.

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“Every woman must be able to move freely in public without harassment and discrimination, no matter what she does or does not wear.

“There’s nothing feminist about telling women what they can or cannot wear. We need to recognise this is racism.”

The meeting came following the conviction of Paul Moore in Nottingham Crown Court last week for the attempted murder of Zaynab Hussein and attempted grievous bodily harm of a 12-year-old girl. They were both targeted by Moore for wearing a hijab.

In the joint statement, Naila Naidoo of Newham Muslim Women’s Association wrote: “Statements that demonise the wearing of the headscarf put our children at risk and contribute to the marginalization and othering of Muslims.

“Instead of building resilience and cohesion, such targetting tears communities apart.”

Stand Up To Racism will be marching on UN Anti-Racism Day as part of a national demonstration on Saturday, March 17. Newham’s marchers will meet at Stratford tube station at 11.30am.