I watched a heart-breaking video on social media the other night. It showed a broken man. His name was Jameel Muhkar. A Muslim. On the morning of 21st June this year, he was out celebrating the 21st birthday of his cousin, Resham Khan, when the couple were viciously attacked with acid sprayed through their car window. Muhkar and Resham both suffered life-altering injuries, and with the victims having no previous connection with the attacker, police are now treating it as a hate crime. 
What gets me most of all is what Muhkar went on to say after describing the attack: “I honestly feel that if this was a white person attacked by an Asian person, he’d be caught within twenty-four hours. It would be all over the news. […] I’ve been left here, and my cousin’s been left here, to just shrivel up and wait.” 
Muhkar states in the video that he was targeted because of his race or religion. He was adamant that the attack was fuelled by Islamophobia and is confident that it was retaliation for the recent terror attacks claimed by ISIS. The latest figures would suggest he’s correct. Not only are acid attacks like this increasing to horrific numbers, but The Independent claims that “Islamophobic hate crimes jumped fivefold” since the beginning of June 2017. 
It seems that it has become all too easy to point the blame at Muslims, simply because they share the same religion as these despicable attackers. Islamophobia is feeding a distorted concept that the way to combat terrorism is with yet more violence and hatred – which is just untrue. Unfortunately, this has somehow become a widespread attitude and as a result, London has become a scary place to live, for everyone.
The Guardian tells us that, “the UK rate of convictions for terror offences related to Islamist extremism nearly doubled in the first half of this decade,” with several of these taking place in the City.  And according to MI5, in the wake of this year’s attacks, the current threat level in the UK for international terrorism remains at Severe. 
The Westminster attack on 22nd March by a single knifeman took the lives of five innocent people  including an unarmed police officer, and left at least forty pedestrians with serious injuries.  Then, there was the London Bridge attack on 3rd June, where three men launched a killing spree both on the bridge and throughout Borough Market, killing eight people and injuring forty-eight.  And on 11th June, one person was killed and eleven people were injured by yet another moving van outside a Mosque near Finsbury Park  – another incident that has not been given the publicity it deserves.
It’s not just London that’s been recently targeted, either. There was, of course, the bombing at Ariana Grande’s Manchester concert that killed twenty-two people in May, many of whom were children.  A shootout in Paris last April left a policeman dead just days before the Presidential election.  Furthermore, since last year alone, major attacks have also taken place in the likes of Stockholm, Damascus, Brussels, Nice, Kabul, Tal Afar, St. Petersburg … the list goes on. 
Nevertheless, in spite of everything that is still going on, I cannot stress this enough: ISIS do not represent the Muslim faith. Just because a person believes in Islam, that does not mean they should be instantly categorised as a terrorist. Yes, there are people who claim to be Muslims and admit that they sympathise with the ISIS cause. Yes, there people who openly preach for strict Sharia law in the UK, right outside Mosques around London. There’s no denying this. But context is everything.
As shown in this clip from Channel 4 documentary, The Jihadis Next Door, often the first people to denounce these preachers and shut them down aren’t police officers; they’re not Islamophobes or Christians or even Atheists for that matter – they’re other Muslims.  Muslims that stand against ISIS and believe Sharia law is completely outdated. These are people who have contributed to our society just as much as any other group; who see jihadi protestors as an embarrassment to Islam. These are people, just like Jameel Mukhar, who have done nothing wrong, but are still looked upon by some as the enemy.
It used to baffle me that people could have this short-minded perspective, let alone put it into practice. Today, however, it doesn’t surprise me at all. On the day of the Westminster attack, I was working as a waiter in a café across from Green Park – one tube station away from where the tragedy occurred. While I was serving tables and taking payments, there was no panic or commotion outside. There were no police sirens blaring from the distance. Everyone was simply going about their daily lives.
It was only when I caught the underground home (going through Westminster station!) that I found out anything had happened at all. This was a vivid reminder to me that no matter how calm and peaceful everything appears, the world could be falling to pieces around you without you even realising it.
When I came into the work the next day – adopting much more vigilance than usual during my commute – I got speaking to an American couple. The pair had been regular customers for the past two weeks and today was their last day in London. Until that point, they had been friendly, charming and easy-going – and had been a pleasure to serve. Then, they showed me their true colours.
They said, of course, how sorry they were about the events of the previous day. I naturally agreed, calling it a terrible and atrocious act. Then, the woman turns to me and says (and I quote), “I know it’s harsh to say, but you Brits should be more like Trump, you know. Get them all out …” Not wanting to cause a commotion, I didn’t say anything – and I’m glad I didn’t, because it would not have ended well for anyone. But boy, I wish I could have.
Now, I’m not going to go off on a rant about how Donald Trump is everything that’s wrong with the world in a position of power. Instead, I’ll simply state this fact: forcing all Muslims to leave the UK will not put an end Islamic terrorism. The idea that it will is both misguided and heartless – and if anything, it will only make matters worse.
To explain why, I’m going to take a page out of comedian Jim Jefferies’ book. In his Freedumb tour, building up to the US election between Trump and Clinton, he talks about Trump’s approach to leadership and, more importantly, immigration. The quote I take away from his performance the most is this: “You’re a sixteen-year-old boy or girl that’s a Muslim, living in this country. You’ve lived your entire life in this country. […] And then all of a sudden, someone who could be your president says, ‘You are not welcome here,’ and that ’you should be put on a register.’ Now, that kid – how f***ing quickly do you think that kid could be radicalised now?” 
Imagine it. Put yourself in Jameel Muhkar or Resham Khan’s shoes? You’ve never caused anyone harm. You consider yourself a Brit and have made a life for yourself in this country. Yet it makes no difference. Because you’re a Muslim, and therefore you’re an outcast. People throughout the British public feel you don’t belong here. They blame you for the actions of other, homicidal Muslims, whom you’ve never met or been affiliated with in any manner. And now, thanks to them, you’ve been singled-out, punished and abused without remorse.
In what possible way can this be considered right?
Now, I’m not going to pretend that I know the solution to terrorism. All I know for certain is that we cannot let these attacks tarnish the way we treat our fellow man – whatever their religion. We cannot let the actions of a few twisted individuals speak for an entire race of innocent people. Terrorism is called that for a reason; it’s designed to inspire chaos and tear people apart. And until we stop fighting each other, terrorism will succeed.
There is a solution to this crisis. There has to be. But hate is not it – and it never will be.