It appears that fateful day has come when we lost our morality. A Muslim man was forced off the London Underground train by a fellow passenger who felt ‘threatened’ by him switching off his iPad surreptitiously.
The Evening Standard was informed the individual switched off the device when the accuser attempted a glance, and was subsequently forced out of the Piccadilly Line tube. The scene did not pass unnoticed. “Shocked” passengers defended the student on his iPad, reportedly calling the accuser racist. Regardless, the individual left the train shortly afterward.
The incident came after a Muslim Open University student was allegedly thrown off a National Express coach because he 'looked shifty'. Eyewitness stewards and supervisors on scene at the time of the incident, when questioned, said he looked 'Arabic'. The individual was treated in this manner because he looked a certain way. He 'resembled' the image that the dominant narrative and imagery of a stereotypical Islamic terrorist portrays.
British Transport Police's follow up comments were expectedly unaltered and noncommittal in encouraging "victims of or witnesses to hate crime on public transport across the UK to come forward."
While not isolated incidents, these are the latest in a string of incidents involving Muslims and non-Muslims alike on public transport in Britain in the wake of the Paris and San Bernardino attacks. Spikes in discriminatory, Islamophobic, 'hate' crimes have been reported consequent to Paris, mirroring similar rises after terrorist atrocities around the world.
Racial profiling and discriminatory incidents have not been confined solely to the UK. Swedish terror police officers arrived to find a meeting of an international facial hair appreciation organisation the "Beard Villains" after a group of bearded men in dark clothes were seen raising a black flag in October.
While being alert and mindful for suspicious behaviour or unattended luggage seems prudent and proactive, the caution and fear often leads to disunity as basal fears consign certain profiles to generalised extremists. Fellow citizens from many walks of life, while part and parcel of our communities, are subjugated to these assertions in greater frequency in the aftermath of paranoia induced media frenzies.
The populist rhetoric labelling certain individuals as different only serves to divide the nation. Segregation is the desired outcome since xenophobic behaviour plays into the hands of the extremists ailing propaganda machines since coalition bombing campaign targeted their oil revenue streams. Where we discriminate and polarise society at home only furthers justification to their claim that such a hostile environment exists within the UK. Ultimately, the odd disenfranchised individual becomes the perfect western born target to indoctrinate. Reduced funding from the oil supplies leaves ISIS seeking any means necessary to spread their messages, values and influence across the globe.
As Voltaire once said, “Misunderstanding arising from ignorance breeds fear, and fear remains the greatest enemy of peace.”
The alienation of the Islamic faith or in this case "Arabs" in generalisation to a cue point. Those left out of society's inclusive embraces and acceptances, or who fail to conform or reflect its expectations face a rough ride in the wake of terrorist attack instilled fear and irrationality. Those who openly accept and rally to extremist groups, do not act so because of shared ideals, but to express their frustrations and anger toward the society which has cast them out.
The underlying message we can glean from this and other such incidents, indicate people are scared. Whether they realise this or not, and whether it is warranted are questionable and uncertain. However, the intentions of the radicalising groups naturally stretches beyond the immediate vicinity of the fatalities and victims of their attacks. Instilling fear, racism and uncertainty in the surviving population is the ultimate goal. This only serves to further disenfranchise these individuals from the remainder of society.
Isolation and discontent can be powerful breeding tools for resentment. In turn, this breeds hatred, and on occasion, action, as the anger is expressed through any desperate plight to be accepted. Failure to lend the same treatment to an individual, regardless of creed or colour, is a recipe for disaster. Whether it be rights, values, freedoms and virtues as the next, regardless of political, cultural, secular sway or distinguishable identification, the outcomes are sub optimal however one chooses to look at them.
The counter terrorism campaigns are condemned to fail where Muslims, Arabs or 'different' minorities in society are labelled as such and placed broad brush in the same basket.
The barbaric acts of a few have been allowed to stigmatise Islam as a religion of hatred ideology and barbarism unfit in this modern day and age. This rhetoric is inflammatory and yet is reinforced by posturing politicians, mass media representation, such as this articles' forerunning publications. The establishment circle the proverbial bandwagons, in eager attempts to put out the heat on our governments, and finger point Russian misgivings alongside terrorists as the primary culprits for civilian casualties in Syria. The spotlight all the while glosses over the DSEI World Arms Fair held in London. Dubious "trade visitors" and military delegations, inclusive of human rights abusing regimes and countries involved in conflict, were welcomed with open arms to support our economy and preserve British values and securitisation. Naturally, an event subsidised by the UK taxpayer.
The day that we as a nation divide ourselves based on creed or colour as assumptions for absent misgivings is the day the terrorist win. Given the western dominance in foreign affairs and military might, ISIS' options are limited to infiltrating western societies and dividing them by whatever means necessary. As Voltaire once said, “Misunderstanding arising from ignorance breeds fear, and fear remains the greatest enemy of peace.”
Richard Bolton writes about politics for The Manchester Magazine. He is a first-year Politics, Philosophy and Economics student at the University of Manchester