GMB stamping out anti-Muslim hate

Equality - 13 Jul 2022

As Muslims across the UK and Ireland celebrate the annual Eid al-Adha festival, GMB equality activist Atif Ali reflects on the importance of the union adopting the APPG definition of Islamophobia

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In 2018, following two years of consultation, the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on British Muslims published a report titled “Islamophobia Defined: the inquiry into a working definition of Islamophobia”. The report contained the following definition:       


"Islamophobia is rooted in racism and is a type of racism that targets expressions of Muslimness or perceived Muslimness.”


That same year, Boris Johnson wrote a column referring to veiled Muslim women as “letterboxes” and “bank robbers”, leading to a shocking rise in Islamophobic incidents by 375%, from eight incidents in the previous week to thirty-eight in the following.

I came across a tweet from Afzal Khan MP the day before Ramadan started this year, stating that the Central Executive Council (CEC) at GMB Union had agreed to adopt the APPG on British Muslims' definition of Islamophobia, making us the first trade union to do so. Gary Smith, our General Secretary, said; "Islamophobia is a poison... We have a long and proud history of fighting racism in our communities and workplaces."

I fully agree, and we must take every possible step to make sure that we combat hate in both our workplaces and communities.


Over 3.3 million Muslims live in the UK, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics. In 2020–21, the police reported 45% of religious hate crimes were Islamophobic. Muslims are most likely to become victims of hate crimes motivated by religion, according to the Crime Survey of England and Wales (CSEW) 2017/18 to 2019/20 data.

In Christchurch mosques, during Friday Prayer, on the afternoon of March 15 2019, fifty-one Muslim worshipers were killed. Even though I was in Amman, Jordan, where 92% of the population is Muslim, when I heard about the terrorist attack I remember feeling scared for those back home. It turned out that I was right. According to Tell Mama (Measuring Anti-Muslim Attacks), which keeps track of Islamophobic incidents, there were 433% more attacks on mosques and other Islamic institutions in March compared to February, going from three to sixteen. Five similar occurrences were reported in April 2019.

The Srebrenica Genocide, the biggest atrocity committed on European soil since World War II, was remembered on July 11 2022 as the 27th anniversary of the killing of 8,372 Bosnian Muslims. Because of their identity, they were brutally killed and placed in mass graves. The lesson learned from Srebrenica is that intolerance and hatred can spread if they are not confronted. We must all make a commitment to combating all types of prejudice, bigotry, intolerance, and hatred.

Over 500,000 members of GMB work in every type of job in the public and private sector. Our members are established in neighbourhoods and businesses all around the UK - and we all have a part to play in eradicating Islamophobia.

As someone who has experienced Islamophobia in the workplace, I know it's important for reps to recruit and develop those with lived experiences, so we can be reflective of society and send a strong message that Islamophobia will not be tolerated in workplaces and beyond.

Together, we can truly change things. It is obvious to me that GMB has demonstrated its commitment to doing the right thing by embracing the definition of Islamophobia. My only wish is that other trade unions and organisations will do the same.

1. https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/sep/02/boris-johnsons-burqa-comments-led-to-surge-in-anti-muslim-attacks
2. https://researchbriefings.files.parliament.uk/documents/CDP-2021-0170/CDP-2021-0170.pdf
3. Office for National Statistics
4. Tell Mama, The Impact of the Christchurch Terror Attack, p5
5. Remembering Srebenica
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