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Islamophobia can be a cause of a Muslim’s mental health worsening. It can come in many forms, from being constantly anxious of those around us for fear of being harassed or attacked, to being worried our friends and family may no longer accept us if we start becoming more ‘Islamic’.

The after effects from Islamophobia can last into adulthood; with young children who were bullied because of their religion being fearful of those around them as they grow up. With a common idea of “Muslims taking over” it is no surprise that Muslim children may feel a disconnect from their faith and culture or a disconnect from those around them, leading to mental health and identity issues. With the increase of Islamophobia, it often forces Muslims to choose between British values and Islamic or cultural values, as there is rarely encouragement and promotion of both – that you can be British and Muslim – whether that’s within, or outside, the Muslim community.

Islamophobia can also stop Muslims from seeking help for their mental health issues; fearing they may be discriminated against whilst getting therapy or seeing a GP for their religious beliefs. This is one barrier to obtaining support, however one should always feel comfortable in seeking support without fear of judgement.

Islamophobia isn’t just about hate crime. It affects Muslims at several levels:

  • Individual – it can stop Muslims expressing their Islamic identity for example through wearing hijab, praying, or fasting. Concealing these parts of one’s identity can lead to emotional repression and having an identity crisis.
  • Interpersonal – it can stop Muslims from wanting to socialise or go into public spaces. This can be for fear of being attacked, or from fear of being socially excluded. It can lead to loneliness, isolation and further mental health issues such as depression and agoraphobia as a result.
  • Structural – the way the media covers Muslims and the policies, such as Prevent, which can increase Islamophobia. Constantly having negative stories about Muslims, stereotyping Muslims as terrorists or others can be extremely stressful, and with Prevent policing our actions, it can make Muslims scared of self-expression and more prone to self-repression.

Our advice is to be you. Hold tight to the rope of Allah SWT and He will support you. There are great organisations doing great work on trying to combat Islamophobia, and things will get better, slowly but surely. Keep those you love and trust around you because good friends and family will support you. Ask for help if you need it, and don’t be afraid to express yourself and your religion in a balanced and appropriate way, according to the Qur’an and Sunnah.

If you need support or have been a victim of a hate crime, then please:

  1. Contact the police on 999 in an emergency or 101 if a non-emergency
  2. Contact MEND’s Islamophobia Response Unit
  3. Contact us for help surrounding your mental health and Islamophobia
  4. Call the Samaritans for mental health support
Jamilla Hekmoun

Jamilla is a final year undergraduate studying Arabic and Middle Eastern Studies and Vice President of the Islamic Society at the University of Exeter. After being diagnosed with anxiety and depression, she is keen on improving the understanding of mental health conditions within Muslim communities. Follow her on Twitter @JamillaTweets.

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