Fife Interfaith Group was first formed in 2004 by Fife Council but since 2010 has operated independently running its own affairs. 2012 was the culmiunation of much planning when the Interfaith Peace garden was opened in Beveridge Park, Kirkcaldy and is still a peaceful place to sit and meditate in the lovely surroundings. The Peace Garden which includes a Peace Pole was sponsored by Lottery Funding Scotland, Fife Council, Park Hotel and local tradesmen who donated and carved the Peace Pole. Since then many events have been held including an annual Interfaith Lecture held in Scottish Interfaith Week in November which is now in its 7th year. The aim of Fife Interfaith Group is bring together people of all Faiths in Fife and advance public knowledge and practices of the different Faith Communities in Fife.
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Talk on Islamaphobia
Sid Akbar, who gave the talk started by talking about TellMAMA UK which is an acronym for “Measuring Anti-Muslim Attacks” which was formed as no records were being kept of the attacks against Muslims and he is here today to speak as a Scottish Muslim to his fellow Scots.
Sid’s family moved from Glasgow to Bannockburn when he was 5 years old and was part of the only Muslim family in the village and they had a hard time, he explained his experience of not being accepted as a bit like if a UFO had landed in a field and aliens from another world had arrived in Bannockburn. He felt that it was newness of immigration to remote places which had never seen brown people rather than racism but this did not make it any easier.
He was a shy child and on his first day at his new school he was surprised when a teacher came and took him out of the class and tried speaking to him slowly in English to try and make him understand what was being said. It appeared that they thought he couldn’t speak English when in fact he could and with a Glaswegian accent. They called his parents in and they were shocked and assured the school that he could speak English very well. He reflected on this ignorance displayed by some based solely on how we look rather than what we are all capable of.
At school he spent lots of time alone as he was not welcomed by the other kids and was beaten up on a daily basis, sometimes three times a day at each break time. One time, in the playground he was attacked by 20 boys and while on the floor could see the teacher who was on duty just standing there and doing nothing, so he presumed that this was OK and the price immigrants had to pay for being allowed to settle in the country. His parents felt much the same. The beatings got worse and worse as he progressed from primary to secondary school and after one particular incident which left him with two black eyes, a broken nose and two teeth knocked out his parents had enough of no one doing anything to protect their child and eventually he was transferred to a new school (Stirling High School) which had more diversity and life got a little easier, it was just the right time for Sid. As he grew up he was determined to confront the bullies who had given him such a hard time and without exception they all expressed how sorry they were and all apologized for the cruelty they had made him endure. These experiences made him want to be someone who could change the world and make things better for others and especially tackling any form of bullying.
He went on to explain how he got involved in race equality work and behind the phenomenon of Islamaphobia and Racism is an $18 Billion dollar industry, with many right wing organizations which help to fund other right wing groups. There is a focus on attacking Muslims and to foster Islamaphobia in society. Social Media is used as an effective tool to foster this and to be very negative about Islam.
Tommy Robinson, the extreme right leader has made over £2 million in one year by making anti-Muslim videos on the media. Yes there are Muslims who cause problems but any Migrant with a darker skin is branded a Muslim when of course not all immigrants are Muslims.
Imagine waking up and being attacked every day. “Your religion is a cult”, “Your religion is evil!” These sorts of comments causes great damage to our youth and makes them question their Faith or desire to retaliate. Islamaphobia also targets and attacks other Faiths such as Hindus and Sikhs believing they are Muslims and now crossing into other immigrants with a darker skin. In America the Sikhs bore the brunt of the prejudice after 9/11.
Islamists are blamed, quite rightfully for some terrorist attacks but in Europe the rise in terrorism arises from Right Wing Groups. In America, 79% of terror attacks arise from Right Wing Groups. I am pleased to say that I was not brought up to think of them and us and I ask everyone to make sure that everyone fits in to the community so that together we show we are there for one another and to tackle all extremism together as communities.
A question was asked about the name Islamaphobia as, basically, an irrational fear of a religion and really just naked racism. Sidd quoted concerning a radio broadcast concerning Racism and ask parents for young Muslims to speak in the programme. Most people asked didn’t want their children put forward because they were immigrants and feared a backlash. Racism is rife and Muslims bear the brunt. People associate Islam with ISIS and because of this and 9/11, attacks on Muslims increased 400%. In the past Christianity has been responsible for the destruction of other civilizations which they conquered and yet this fact is always overlooked. Sid has spoken to Tommy Robinson and other right wing hate preachers and asked them to change their rhetoric from ALL Muslims to SOME Muslims but they were not willing to do this. This same attitude is shown by events in Northern Ireland between Catholics and Protestants.
Islamaphobia and Race Hate are much worse in Scotland, especially sectarian hate reflecting the position in Northern Ireland. Media is always stirring it up either privately or by the press. The Koran is misquoted out of context of the verses either side. The Koran condemns killing a person saying “To Kill one person is the same as to kill all mankind”.
Foreign policy in the Middle East also does not help as it divides communities and all based on our leader’s lusts for oil.
Sid asked the group to try to make a Muslim friend and learn their point of view and see how much we all have in common.
A question about the Burka and Niqab was answered in that it was a custom which predates Judaism. There is a wide divergence of views concerning what “Modesty” means in the Koran. It is not Islamic that wife should be forced to wear a Burka or a Niqab, so shouldn’t happen and in many cases it is Culture rather than religion which results in the wearing of these garments. Sid also answered the question by saying that as a man he feels men have no right to tell women what to wear, whether it be a bikini or Burka, there is sexism in the very fact men try to dictate what women can and cannot wear.
If we add up all the terror attacks globally there are about 200 to 300 thousand terrorists which works out as 0.006% of the global Muslim population and this fact should put the matter in the right context. If Islamists are barely half a percent of all Muslims then surely 99.94% of Muslims show that Islam is indeed a religion of peace.
It’s strange that the media never points this fact out?
Sid was thanked for his talk and answers and the Group then took refreshments and further discussions followed.
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Next Monthly Meeting
11 December 2018 at 7.30pm Dunfermline Central Mosque Woodside Road Dunfermline
A fun evening with games a good craic and plenty of food