She may be a criminal in the eyes of French law, but here at a London conference on Islamophobia, Kenza Drider was welcomed as a champion of women’s rights.
Last month, as a French citizen, she made a public stand against France’s new law outlawing the wearing of the niqab or face veil. She’s been arrested twice, but has refused on principle to pay the fine.
She was one of many speakers at a conference on the spread of anti-Muslim hatred across Europe. Academics and activists have noted a change in social interaction as fears of abuse and attacks grew.
There have been many instances of violence against Muslims across Europe. One case which highlights the consequences of leaving Islamophobia unchecked is the story of Marwa Sherbini, now known as the hijab martyr. She was killed after being stabbed 18 times by a man who’d called her a terrorist.
Doctor Robert Lambert has been investigating attacks on Muslims for a decade. He says politicians could do far more to combat the problem. But there was also recognition that bridges had been built across groups and communities in the UK, particularly in London, that strengthened resistance to rise of the far right.
And so while there has been progress in terms of recognising Islamophobia, the threat of anti-Muslim hatred remains serious. The feeling here is that the attitudes of European governments must change first before European societies can deal with the problem, and stave off the increasing incidents of violence against Muslims and the growing prospect of isolated communities.
See also “Activists condemn Islamophobia”, Daily Mirror, 21 May 2011