Life for British Muslims is getting harder: Islamophobic violence has risen since the Paris terror attacks, and British fears of refugees and migrants are becoming so high that they may help lead the United Kingdom to exit the European Union.
To find out how the young Muslims of the United Kingdom are experiencing these changes, the British arts and culture magazine Dazed produced this short video conducting a dozen or so interviews. It is well worth your three minutes:
I was struck, watching this, that even with all the abuse these young men and women have suffered, they still seem to feel a special obligation to affirmatively prove themselves as British. And it's not an obligation they appear to resist or resent, but rather embrace — as if being part of a minority that is suffering discrimination and harassment were not hard enough on its own.
"I do everything I can, in my capacity, to fit in here," a young woman says. "But that will never be enough for some people, I guess."
"People expect us to prove so much," says another.
Maybe this is, in some part, a sign of the differences among European countries, which often privilege a static national identity that newcomers are pressured to take on, versus the United States and Canada, which, for all their very real problems with xenophobia, at least in theory have immigration-based national identities that cherish rather than reject differences.
Also striking to me is how often the interview subjects cite media coverage as part of the problem — and not just coverage that is explicitly anti-Muslim. British Muslims make up about 5 percent of the population and, after generations of colonial-era and post-colonial migration, are woven into British life. Yet British media coverage often mentions Islam in the UK only in relation to the refugee crisis or to terrorism.
The same might be said of American media coverage of Islam and Muslims. Ironically, it was only when Donald Trump took overt Islamophobia to new heights — and made it a political story and campaign controversy — that mainstream US outlets began to devote real attention to the Islamophobia that had been growing out of control since early 2014.
Which is all to say that my colleagues in the American media who are tasked with covering migration and terrorism, and who might not consider Islamophobia-related stories formally part of their beat, should keep in mind how closely those stories are linked, whether they see it or not, in the minds of their readers, Muslim and non-Muslim alike.