As the backlash from the Trojan Horse podcast continues, Media Diversified columnist Ava Vidal wonders why some didn’t see the affair coming
You must have your head in the sand if you don’t know the story of The Trojan Horse Affair by now. The false plot that Islamists were taking over a school in Birmingham in order to radicalise children has proved to be false and has been dubbed ‘The Trojan Hoax.’ I have heard this discussed frequently in the last couple of weeks. I have heard Muslim friends discussing this incident with shock and horror. Some are even scared.
“They targeted our children. I am starting to think that the British government doesn’t care about Muslims at all,” one person said. I fought the urge to scream back sarcastically, “Oh really?! Do you think?”
I am a Muslim. I have not been a Muslim for very long and Islamophobia was nothing I had to deal with growing up. I don’t even have to deal with it now if I’m honest. I don’t read as Muslim and I’ve been in the public eye for some time and for most of that time I wasn’t. I don’t wear a hijab and at this time in my life I don’t intend to. (I don’t want a single message or tweet about that so don’t bother because you won’t like my response.)
Some of the most beautiful, kind and wonderful Muslim women I know don’t wear it and they live and breathe Islam. On the other hand one of the most pretentious, vile, backbiting women I have ever met doesn’t leave home without hers and she’s a horror show. In fact when I was considering becoming a Muslim back in 2011 she is the reason I did not do it. When I saw how she conducted herself I thought, “Wow. If that’s Islam you can keep it!”
Although I didn’t grow up Muslim, I grew up Black (that may shock some of you I know) so when the post 9/11 discourse started I recognised it for exactly what it was – racism. I immediately recognised the dehumanisation, the scapegoating and the alienation that the Muslim community was facing. I understood the fear and helplessness that many Muslims felt. In my comedy and writing I tried to redress the balance in my own small way. I faced resistance when I was at The Telegraph when I wrote articles like this and got backlash from the readers who seemed hell bent on proving my point. I tried to highlight the similar prejudices Muslims and Black non Muslim communities faced that even some of those in both communities couldn’t see.
“I really can’t stand the lamenting, wailing and wringing of hands I am seeing and hearing from some. The utter shock that corrupt members of government and the complicit media would target a minority community.”
When I organised a demonstration outside the US embassy after the death of Trayvon Martin to connect the similar issues faced by Black children in the UK I invited the Muslim Council of Britain. They sent some activists and as some saw these young, Brown men adorned in their thobes someone hissed at me,
“What the hell are they doing here?”
“I invited them.”
“I don’t know,” I replied sarcastically. “I just figured that if anyone else might understand the distress ‘Stop and Search’ causes it would be them.”
I’ve had friends ask me why I would sign up for such an awful, sexist religion. I explain that is not the Islam that I recognise. I am more concerned with Islam than Muslims anyway but I know some wonderful human beings that are Muslim: Aamer Rhaman, Nabil Abdulrashid and his wife, the Siddiqi sisters and many others. It was my Muslim friends that literally saved my life after I lost my daughter in 2018. They sent me hadiths and quotes from the Qu’ran that encapsulated how I was feeling and guided me on how to move forward, they kept me in their duas and made sure I was eating. And because of everything I have observed I don’t like weighing in on Muslim community issues publicly but after great consideration I feel that I have to say something about this.
The way that non-Black Muslims are reacting to the Trojan Hoax is pissing me off. There. I said it.
I really can’t stand the lamenting, wailing and wringing of hands I am seeing and hearing from some. The utter shock that corrupt members of government and the complicit media would target a minority community. The disbelief that members of their own community would betray them and the pretence that caring for and protecting children was used as a pretext for discrimination. When I hear people saying this I want to scream, “Where the hell were you when it was happening to us?”
The criminalisation of Black children has been going on for years in the UK. Schools with a lot of Black children are under resourced and over policed. Black parents have been accused for years of not being able to look after our children properly and not being trusted to make decisions for their futures. Recently, Rogan Productions made a documentary entitled ‘Subnormal’ that highlighted the fact that many, many Caribbean children were falsely labelled ‘educationally subnormal’ and put in remedial schools. Others were put into pupil referral units accused of being wild animals that didn’t know how to behave. And this was attributed to our culture by people at the highest level.
The reason so many non-Black Muslims didn’t know it was happening to us is because they simply didn’t care. In many cases, they agreed with the assessments made about Black people. It didn’t horrify them because they believed it. There is a shocking amount of anti-Blackness in the Muslim community, not just in the UK but the entire ummah. I hesitated about saying Shahada which involved me committing visiting the hajj if it was possible because I saw a clip of some horrific racism carried out there. And I don’t want anyone writing to tell me how many Black Muslims visit the hajj and return unscathed because it won’t take away what I saw and how it made me feel.
In a Twitter Space recently I told a story of when I tried to find a mosque someone had directed me to. I got lost at the end and I asked a South Asian taxi driver where it was. He flat out denied there was a mosque in the area. I gave him a Black woman look and as I walked away he may have got an attack of conscience because he called me back as he suddenly remembered where it was. I was told that it is
because recently mosques have been under attack as though I don’t know the real reason why that happened.
“Boris Johnson… described Black people as having watermelon smiles and our children as picaninnies. Such is the lack of respect for us that it didn’t prevent him from going on to hold the highest office in politics.”
How many Black women with five year old children in tow have attacked mosques recently or ever? But a white Neo Nazi that did was ushered in with open arms. When I did get to the mosque a man rushed out asking me what I wanted and he thrust a piece of paper into my hand and told me I would need to go online. These are just my experiences although I have seen other things happen to other Black Muslims.
I understand some people won’t like this but it’s too bad. We have the most right wing government in living memory and they are openly Islamophobic and racist. We have a Prime Minister in Boris Johnson who has described Muslim women as bank robbers and letterboxes. He described Black people as having watermelon smiles and our children as picaninnies. Such is the lack of respect for us that it didn’t prevent him from going on to hold the highest office in politics. In fact he’s not even allowed to be questioned about it in Parliament anymore. The Nationality and Borders Bill that allows the government to strip us of our citizenship will be used disproportionately against Black and Muslim people. We know this.
Many Muslim people are asking what they can do about the Trojan Hoax. They are demanding a public inquiry. That’s fair enough but as someone who is from a community that has seen The McPherson Report, The Scarman Report and The Sewell Report I would advise you not to get your hopes up. ‘The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house’ as the late, great Audre Lorde once said.
I recommend that going forward there is some unity and looking outwards. Learn from what happened to other marginalised communities like the Black community and the LGBT community. Look at how the work and tactics put in to dismantling the ‘subnormal’ label and Section 28 were carried out. White supremacy is unimaginative and unoriginal. None of these tactics are new. Stop sitting in the corner crying “and then they came for me” because quite frankly you should have seen it coming.
Ava Vidal is a stand-up comedian, journalist and author. She has appeared on TV and radio including shows such as Michael McIntyre’s Comedy Roadshow, BBC Radio 4′ s News Quiz and BBC Two’s Mock the Week. Follow Ava on Twitter
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