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Grenfell fire: an illustration of institutional Islamophobia at its worst

8th Jul 2022
Grenfell fire: an illustration of institutional Islamophobia at its worst

Victims of London’s towering inferno are still waiting for a semblance of justice from one of the deadliest British fires in modern history. Five years on, the inquiry into the blaze at Grenfell Towers is sluggishly dragging toward a conclusion. In closing remarks, lawyers acting for the bereaved and survivors have implicated the Metropolitan Police with Islamophobia in response to the 2017 fire which killed 72 people, among whom around half were Muslim.

In the immediate aftermath of the tragedy, Muslim residents in the 24-storey tower block who survived the inferno, together with the local community, were praised for their selfless acts that saved many lives. Many were awake at suḥūr [pre-dawn meal] during Ramadan when the fire started by an electrical fault in a refrigerator on the fourth floor quickly engulfed the whole building. The tragedy highlighted the heroic nature of individual Muslims working together for the greater good.

An inquiry was launched to immediately investigate the causes of the fire and other related issues. Findings from the first report of the investigation were released in October 2019 and addressed the events of the night. It affirmed that the building’s exterior did not comply with regulations and was the central reason the fire spread and that the fire service was too late in advising residents to evacuate. The second phase to investigate the broader causes began on the third anniversary in 2020.

Just days after the blaze, the police issued a risk assessment, which exposed how riddled the force is with institutional Islamophobia. Rather than focusing on the relief effort and helping the (predominantly Muslim) victims, the report fixated upon treating the survivors as would-be criminals set on an uprising. It was the usual adage of looking at Muslims through the prism of terrorism.

The Islamophobic nature of the police, particularly the Met, is nothing new. It is notoriously renowned for its racial prejudices and discriminatory practices. Earlier this year, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Bas Javid, the brother of Health Secretary, Sajid Javid, accepted that racism “is a problem in the Metropolitan police.” In an interview with BBC Newsnight, he acknowledged that “people who have racist views and are racist” were among the force’s staff. His comments came after Cressida Dick resigned as Commissioner of the Met amid allegations of a toxic culture among officers.

The Grenfell tragedy presents Islamophobia as “the elephant in the room” and highlights the harmful effects of the spectre at its worst. Has policing been reduced to this? Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, has pledged to end the toxic culture and oppose the appointment of a new Met Commissioner who fails to understand the underlying issues that have beleaguered the force. Islamophobia is excusable. The police, like other institutions, need to purge what has become cultural norms.

READ MORE

Police response to Grenfell fire ‘Islamophobic’, say community lawyers

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Over 120 people attended a landmark conference on the media reporting of Islam and Muslims. It was held jointly by The Muslim News and Society of Editors in London on September 15.

The Muslim News Awards for Excellence 2015 was held on March in London to acknowledge British Muslim and non-Muslim contributions to the society.

The Muslim News Awards for Excellence 2015 was held on March in London to acknowledge British Muslim and non-Muslim contributions to the society.

The Muslim News Awards for Excellence event is to acknowledge British Muslim and non-Muslim contributions to society. Over 850 people from diverse background, Muslim and non-Muslim, attended the gala dinner.

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