Coming Together against Racism

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Like every other person who stands for peace, my heart dropped and I had a huge lump in my throat when I heard the news about the explosions in London on 7 July.

Shortly after, another time of grief occurred - only more exclusive, as news started breaking about Islamophobic attacks around the country, including here in Merseyside.

This scenario is becoming all too familiar for Muslims in Britain. Not only do we suffer when our country is hit and chaos is caused in the capital, but we are also blamed, demonised by the media, and made to feel responsible for actions we have nothing to do with.

Two weeks later, and we find out that devout Christian teenager Anthony Walker was brutally attacked and murdered by a group of racist thugs in Huyton, Liverpool, the only reason being a beautiful gift god had given to him - his colour.

I attended a vigil here in Liverpool to show support to Anthony's family. While talking with Anthony's friends and family, one of his close friends asked me, 'Is there any surprise that this happened, after the bestselling newspaper in the UK had a headline stating "We Got The Bastards" in front of a picture with four black men in it?'

Things are now becoming more serious. Not only are the government and police holding meetings with Muslim leaders across the country, but the media is smothering the whole situation with 'super-spin', a brand reserved only for 'Islamist terrorists' and 'Muslim extremists'. It is making it look like it is all 'their' (Muslims') fault, and their religion is the problem.

The most worrying situation, however, is a promise from Tony Blair when he reassured us that the July bombings would 'not change our values'. They are being changed, and the government seems to be at the forefront of changing them. Not only does a British Muslim woman have to contemplate the danger of going out in public wearing her headscarf for fear of attack, but Hindus, Sikhs and other members of British society are also living in constant fear.

In addition to this, our biggest value, justice, is being deteriorated as each hour goes by. The British way used to be 'innocent until proven guilty'. Then, with the introduction of the Terrorism Act, it was transformed into 'guilty until proven innocent'. And finally the Metropolitan Police (who unfortunately can't differentiate between a Pakistani Muslim and a Brazilian Catholic) - after having received training from Israel and operating a 'shoot to kill' policy - have now made us a nation of 'guilty, and you can never prove yourself innocent'.

However, not all is bad. One of my best friends, Michael, is a blue eyed, trendily dressed 23 year old. He told me how he caught a taxi just one week after the bombings and started talking to the taxi driver. 'Them Muslims,' said the enraged taxi driver, 'they're all fanatics.' Little did the cab driver know that Michael had been Muslim for four years. By the end of the journey his ignorance had been corrected, and said he would like to find out more about Islam.

It is this reaction - cohesion and people learning about each other and coming together - which is what all evil people despise, whether terrorist, racist or other. We must fight exclusion, demonisation, hatred and persecution of the weak. It's time for us all to support each other, and here on Merseyside that is what is slowly happening.

In the memory of those who are constantly losing their lives around the world, those who were killed in London and Anthony Walker, we are coming together.

Adam Kelwick
Muslim chaplain
Liverpool