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“Chess pieces removed from the board”: The Ongoing Effects of Unjust Warfare

“Chess pieces removed from the board”: The Ongoing Effects of Unjust Warfare

Categories: Latest News

Monday January 30 2023

Excerpts from Prince Harry’s recent memoir ‘Spare’ revealed harrowing details of his time as a serving soldier in Afghanistan and the unjust nature of the so-called ‘war on terror’ invasion of the country. The Duke of Sussex recounted:

“So, my number: twenty-five… I didn’t think of those twenty-five as people. You can’t kill people if you think of them as people. You can’t really harm people if you think of them as people. They were chess pieces removed from the board”.

Such an admission reveals the dehumanisation of human lives during the height of the so-called ‘war on terror’. Indeed, the overt focus on Muslims and Islam as the “other” during the so-called ‘war on terror’ intensified Islamophobia to endemic levels. It made the Muslim experience in the West increasingly difficult in many ways, including psychologically, culturally, and through the perspective of national security. This inevitably ostracised Muslims communities by instilling anxiety and gendered feelings of being unwelcome, all while being perceived as dangerous and posing a constant threat to national security. Undeniably, the consequences of the invasion still linger and will persist for a long time unless challenged and addressed.

The ‘war on terror’ framed Islam and Muslims as an ideological threat to Western values and security. Since the ‘war on terror’, the media has frequently associated Muslims with extremism and terrorism. According to studies, more than one-third of all publications misrepresented or stereotyped Muslims, with 59% of stories associating Muslims with negative behaviours. Such disparaging representations of Muslims persisted in media coverage of the ongoing global pandemic during its peak, with some outlets wrongly portraying Muslims as important contributors to the COVID-19 spread. Perhaps most recently, the Guardian, often cited as a neutral source, put up a picture of a hijab-wearing woman and a headline about fraudulent COVID grants. Following several individuals questioning the relevance of such an image to the story, the Guardian quickly removed the picture. However, such an occurrence reiterated how harmful public discourses about Muslims have been normalised, with the media and politicians’ rhetoric amplifying such negative sentiments and stereotypes about Muslims.

Meanwhile, the ‘war on terror’ agenda has given states unprecedented authority to securitise and arbitrarily target their minority Muslim communities. Most notoriously, the PREVENT strategy, a component of the overarching CONTEST counter-terrorism strategy, imposes a statutory duty on public organisations under the Counter-terrorism and Security Act 2015 to detect indications of potential radicalisation. The PREVENT strategy, which has been in place for over a decade, has contributed to the ongoing marginalisation of Muslim communities in the Uk. This has resulted in a culture of over-referrals and undue scrutiny of Muslims, with 16% (1,027) of referrals being made in regard to concerns about ‘Islamist extremism’ according to the most recent Home Office statistics. The overrepresentation is evident in that Muslims make up no more than 6.5% of the UK population according to the 2021 census results yet constitute a significant number of referrals. As a result, it becomes apparent that the government has continued utilising the rhetoric of the ‘war on terror’ and national security to justify over-securitisation and the targeting of Muslim communities in the UK.

The frequent portrayal of Muslims as potential terrorists and a suspect population fuels anti-Muslim sentiment. As a consequence, Muslims and those assumed to be Muslim have consistently comprised the majority of religious hate crime victims year after year. In the year ending March 2022, 42% (3,459) of religious hate crimes were directed at Muslims or persons thought to be Muslim despite Muslims making up no more than 6.5% of the overall UK population. However, such a  figure is likely to be higher, given the British Crime Survey found significant under-reporting of hate crimes. Indeed, on the back of the ‘war on terror’, Politicians and the media have played a significant role in propagating anti-Muslim sentiment. Consequently, systematic Islamophobia has been used to silence dissenting voices and undermine civil liberties, resulting in widespread indifference to Islamophobia.

While the ‘war on terror’ invasion of Afghanistan has finished, the significant collateral effects impacting Muslims continue to persist. From dehumanisation in Afghanistan to apathy in the face of discrimination in the UK. The negative consequences are still deeply ingrained in our society. However, acknowledging how such an occurrence has affected mainstream British Muslims and striving to mend the impact is a positive step to counter the consequences. As a result, understanding and defining Islamophobia in the legal domain is essential for progress in eradicating discrimination, hatred and prejudice towards Muslims.

Therefore, in light of the above, MEND urges the government in 2023 to finally commit to adopting the definition of Islamophobia produced by the APPG on British Muslims: “Islamophobia is rooted in racism and is a type of racism that targets expressions of Muslimness or perceived Muslimness”, and apply this definition in conjunction with the guidelines that MEND has produced.


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