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November marked several awareness campaigns. One awareness campaign that doesn’t nearly get enough attention as it should, is Islamophobia awareness, running throughout November and focusing on hate crimes and violence that occur due to a dislike or prejudice of the religion Islam.
Very sadly, hate crimes due to religion as a whole are increasing each year. The home office reports that 3,530 hate crimes in the name of Islamophobia were committed in 2018/19, and adding the fact that religion and race are often intertwined, there is an alarming chance that this figure could be a lot higher.
So, as a fellow reader you may be wondering; why is it important to have an awareness of Islamophobia?
Firstly, the Nursing and Midwifery Council states that we have a duty to keep our patients, our staff and ourselves safe when we are delivering care. Chances are you will meet (or you are yourself) someone who is a muslim.
If we follow the NMC Code (which I’m sure we do), then we have a duty to keep all patients, families and visitors safe, including those that identify as muslims. We also have a duty to keep all our colleagues safe (again including muslim colleagues), and that should include allowing them to practice Islam freely without being discriminated against.
Article 9 of the Human Rights Act states that we all have the right to practice religion freely – without any sense of nervousness or fear of being discriminated. As nurses of the future, we don’t have to make massive changes to the care that we already deliver in order to make muslim patients and their families more welcome – in fact, it’s the simpler and easier things that we can do. Small things such as making sure muslim families break their fast during Ramadhan, or knowing where the prayer room is so that you can direct families; this can also include asking a muslim colleague about Islam and their practices (most don’t mind answering any questions as long as it’s asked gently).
The second reason Islamophobia awareness is important is because it is a lot more than hate crimes and violence towards religion. Islamophobia means a dislike or prejudice for Islam.
Therefore, even those funny stereotypes (which may be funny to your colleague) can be seen negatively by muslim families, patients and visitors, which will affect the overall rapport between professionals and the family, thus leading to a lower quality of care.
The NMC states that we cannot make assumptions in regards to the care that we provide, and this can include making stereotypes as they can influence the overall impact of care.
Finally, while Islamophobia awareness month focused on the hate crimes towards Islam, it is important to consider that such crimes make up only half of the total number of hate crimes due to religion. 20% of hate crimes are targeted at Jews and 10% are targeted at Christians.
However, for other religions, there is no clear awareness campaign. Islamophobia awareness should be the start of accepting all religions and backgrounds, and continuous improvement of trying to make a diverse society feel safer and more inclusive.