The Leeds Trinity University Islamic Society hosted an event on Wednesday 16 November, raising awareness for and tackling issues around Islamophobia.
MEND (Muslim Engagement and Development) a not-for-profit company, was invited to the event to deliver a workshop on the topic. The company’s aim is to empower and encourage Muslims in the UK to actively be more involved in British media and politics.
The Muslim Council of Britain’s Centre for Media Monitoring found that 59% of articles across all publications were identified as associating negative aspects and behaviour with Muslims or Islam, and over a third of all articles about Muslims were misrepresented or generalised.
Hamzah Naveed, regional manager of MEND for the north of the UK, delivered a workshop on the background and history of MEND, and the causes and cures for Islamophobia. Hamzah shared his experiences as a young, South Asian, Muslim male studying in the UK, and how he was often “put in a box” and deemed as less than others, because he was a Muslim.
He continued to share how MEND tackles such issues. “We’re not the voice of Muslims, but we ensure that Muslims do have a voice, that they feel like they can be unapologetically Muslim.”
A third-year Education student, Muminah, also shared her experiences as part of the panel.
“I feel like people judge me by my hijab and not my personality,” she said.
Data found by MEND shows that out of 6264 hate crimes that took place in England and Wales from 2020 to 2021, 2703 of those were targeted at Muslims, mainly hijab-wearing women.
Amongst the guests speaking on the panel was senior university lecturer, Asiya Siddiquee, who works in the academic partnership unit, and is the co-chair of the BAME staff network at Leeds Trinity university.
Asiya explained that she believes representation matters, especially within the education sector. “For me, as an academic, I feel like I have immense pressure as a role model for not only my students of ethnic minority, but also Muslim students.”
Whilst representation has been growing in recent years, it is still an issue that needs to be addressed, with Muslims making up only 0.4% of the media and journalism industry.
Hamzah explained the objectives of MEND, and how they plan to reduce the negative image of Muslims in the media. Some of their aims include political engagement by British Muslims and providing essential skills for Muslims to play a more active role within politics and media.