This week, Muslim women campaign against forced hijab removal and coronavirus aid must continue
In the Race Review, we speak to campaigners who are protesting against the forced removal of Muslim women's headscarves and discuss how support for vulnerable members of the community shouldn't stop after coronavirus.
Sana Noor Haq
23 Mar 2020
I hope you’re staying safe this week. In today’s Race Review, we’re looking at what people can do to help the wider community during coronavirus and covering a new campaign protesting against the forced removal of Muslim women’s hijabs under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000.
REFLECT: Care for the wider community shouldn’t stop after the coronavirus
This week we’ve experienced Donald Trump blaming China for the coronavirus, celebrities sharing cringe-worthy videos showcasing their Marie Antoinette-like ignorance and privilege and people applauding Rishi Sunak for being able to read competently from notes on a lectern.
Understandably, many of us are feeling restless and futile at the moment. But, whether you’re able to stay at home and self-isolate, or you are working outside, there’s things you can do to help vulnerable members of the community during this time.
QueerCare, a transfeminist autonomous care organisation, has an extensive set of guidelines on how to help the community while prioritising your safety. And why not sign this petition from Detention Action, which calls on the government to release those in internment in order to reduce the risk of infection and prevent loss of life?
It’s extremely humbling to see people rallying together and actioning change in order to help others. However, we need to remember that the habits we’re forming now shouldn’t be confined to the realm of an international health pandemic. Moving forward, we have to continue to consider the implications that our actions will have on the wider community, and always value the lives of others on par with our own.
REPORT: Muslim women campaign against targeted incidents of Islamophobia
In October 2018, a Muslim woman known as Asiyah was interviewed by men officers at Heathrow airport under Schedule 7. The officers coerced Asiyah into taking off her hijab and told her “we can take photographs that we need by force”. Last week, in an out-of-court settlement, the Met Police admitted that the officers’ behaviour was a breach of her human rights and violated her right to religious observance.
Prompted by Asiyah’s story, the grassroots organisation CAGE launched its #HandsOffOurHijabs campaign, where Muslim women from across the UK have shown solidarity and called for an end to the forced removal of women’s hijabs in Schedule 7 airport stops. CAGE, which promotes justice against discriminatory state policies, has been in contact with Asiyah and connected her with legal support.
Schedule 7 came into force 20 years ago under the Terrorism Act 2000. It is a national security port and border power that allows law enforcement officers to stop and search people at airports, international rail station and ports without the need for suspecting an individual’s involvement in terrorism or any other criminal-related activity. Over half a million people have been stopped and questioned under its jurisdiction, even if they aren’t suspected of being involved in any crime.
Leanne Mohamad is a 19-year-old poet and human rights activist. She appeared in the CAGE campaign alongside multiple Muslim women, where she performed her spoken word poem. “Nobody should have to go through this discriminatory, humiliating process. We must have the courage to challenge this Islamophobic policy,” she said.
Talking about her appearance in the CAGE campaign, she said it “felt like a duty”.
Naila Ahmed is a Casework Manager at CAGE who organised the video. Speaking about Asiyah’s legal challenge, she said, “Asiyah would say to us ‘I’m not doing this for myself, I’m doing it for other women’.
“We’ve seen this happening across different airports and ports by different police officers. There’s some directive that’s been given – the Home Office should be transparent about that and let it be challenged,” she told gal-dem.
CAGE has written to the all-party parliamentary group to intervene with targeted incidents of Islamophobia under Schedule 7. The outcome of Asiyah’s case signals incremental change, but there are still huge amounts of work to be done.
Naila added, “We hope that they will read that judgement and know that they have a right to say no in that situation. I think that’s really powerful.”
• Campaigners are calling upon the fashion industry to protect the 40 million garment workers in their supply chains, who face destitution as factories close in an effort to suppress COVID-19. People are demanding that brands take responsibility for factory employees, who are on the brink of severe poverty.
• Abortion in New Zealand has been decriminalised after the parliament passed a bill that removes the procedure from the country’s Crimes Act, which has been in force since 1977. The bill will now allow people who are pregnant to choose termination up to 20 weeks into their pregnancy.
• Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been temporarily released from prison in Iran under measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Like her, an estimated 85,000 incarcerated people in Iran will be allowed a leave of absence for two weeks as authorities try to prevent the risk of infection.
• A 27-year-old man died by suicide after being confined in a family immigration detention centre in Texas. His death is the ninth in ICE custody since 1 October. It is yet another example of why safer immigration routes are so necessary.
• In some cities around the world, including New York, levels of air pollutants and warming gases are significantly decreasing as the coronavirus has impacted people’s travel. Researchers in the Big Apple said carbon monoxide had dropped by nearly 50% compared with last year.
• Indya Moore is using Cash App to help raise donations and gather pandemic relief for black queer people and trans people of colour. They are accepting donations and redistributing the money back to communities who are being impacted by the coronavirus.
• The Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) has “serious concerns” about the “inhumane” care of trans incarcerated people in a UK women’s prison in South Gloucestershire. Some were segregated for longer than 42 days, which is more than twice the maximum duration given by the UN.
• Two teenage girls in Southampton aged 14 and 15 have been arrested for perpetrating an alleged racist attack on several South East Asian people wearing face masks. Both have been accused of assaulting and abusing four people in the central part of the city centre.
• Netflix and director Ava DuVernay are being sued over allegations of an “unethical villain” portrayal of former prosecutor Linda Fairstein, who is a central role in When They See Us. The series portrays the story of the Central Park Five, who were wrongly convicted of rape.
• An earthquake in the north of Zagreb, the capital of Croatia, was recorded on Sunday morning. It had a magnitude of around 5.3 on the Richter scale. The local media has reported that a 15-year-old boy died as a result.
• Cases of young black men who are stopped by the police and then disappear completely or are found dead are increasing in Brazil under the racist, homophobic president Jair Bolsonaro. A 20-year-old man, Carlos Eduardo Nascimento, was handcuffed by police three months ago and hasn’t been seen since.
• The Windrush Lessons Learned Review condemned the Home Office for the “institutional ignorance and thoughtlessness towards the issue of race and the history of the Windrush generation”, and prompted an official apology from Home Secretary Priti Patel.
• A primary school teacher in Somerset has been banned from his profession after posting Islamophobic comments on Facebook. Fifty-three-year-old Philip Turner wrote that “Islam is the cancer of the world”. Philip had previously been sacked by another school in January 2019 after parents raised concerns.
GOOD NEWS OF THE WEEK
Lola Olufemi’s Feminism, Interrupted: Disrupting Power was published last week. In her new book, Lola reclaims feminism from consumerism by exploring transmisogyny, gendered Islamophobia, reproductive justice, state violence against women and so much more. We’re looking forward to purchasing a copy and diving straight in!