We Are not Scapegoats: UK Muslim Group Chief

LONDON – As the young chief of the UK most influential Muslim group (MCB). which acts as a voice for 500 mosques and associations, Harun Khan does not see his task an easy one, with the recent spike in Islamophobic attacks.

“Muslims have had a lot of media attention over the past few years,” Khan told Arabian Business on Thursday, October 25.

“The growth of ISIS, the Syrian conflicts and the domestic terrorism attacks in Manchester, London Bridge, and Westminster all fed into each other.”

The 49-year-old is the first second-generation Muslim-Brit to lead the country’s most influential Islamic representation network.

According to Home Office, religiously-motivated hate crime has risen 40 percent in England and Wales, with more than half (52 percent) directed at Muslims.

“We do call on politicians a lot to speak out against Islamophobia and encourage better fostering of good relations. My role at MCB is also to come out and disassociate Muslims from terrorist attacks that cause a spike in Islamophobia,” he added.

“I don’t apologize for their actions, I have nothing to do them. But I can condemn them as if they perceive to represent a Muslim then I need to dispel that myth. The media’s not going to say that unless there’s someone telling them.”

Khan believes that the growth in right-wing popularism is a direct cause for rising Islamophobia.

“When right-wing politicians want to win audiences, there has to be a scapegoat. Nigel Farage and UKIP have been using immigrants and Islam [as scapegoats]. Elements from the right-wing government have fed into this narrative too, such as Boris Johnson and some Conservative MPs,” he said.

“The sad reality is that Muslims are only a small percent population of the UK ­- nobody’s ‘taking over’ anything.

“Half of that Muslim population is born in this country. There’ll always be crazy people but they’re not just from the Muslim community. People from all sections of society commit criminal acts.”

Second Generation Muslims

Khan believes it is important to seek better representation of second-generation Muslims in the country.

“I think [we can make society better understand Muslims] by just playing our role in society, being active and being good at what we do so that it can shake people’s perceptions,” he said.

“I think a lot of people have misconceptions about Muslims. I think having dialogue and interaction is critical.”

Khan highlighted inspiring British Muslim role models such as London MP Sadiq Khan, athlete Mo Farah, footballer Mo Saleh, and British Bake Off TV star Nadiya Hussain.

“From a community perspective, we need to reach out more. We can’t keep ourselves to ourselves; otherwise, it just feeds it [prejudice],” he said.

As a second-term Secretary-General for the MCB in a testing cultural time, Khan sees his voluntary role as most challenging and rewarding at the same time.

“I just want to send the message that Muslims are just like everyone else. When I got elected that was one of my key messages… that our best years lie ahead of us.”