People, Travel

Islamophobia Threatens UK’s Tourism Economy

Islamophobia Threatens UK’s Tourism EconomyIslamophobia Threatens UK’s Tourism Economy

The rising tide of Islamophobia in the UK, stoked by the mainstream media, poses a direct threat to the country’s $190 billion tourism economy and Muslim investment in Britain, experts warn.

An estimated 1.3 million Muslim travelers visited the UK in 2014, making the country the third most popular among the non-Organization of Islamic Cooperation states, according to the MasterCard-Crescent Rating Global Muslim Travel Index 2015, published earlier this month. But other commentators said tourism numbers may be hit due to news of rising Islamophobia and hate crimes in the UK, according to Al-Arabia.

The United Kingdom is currently one of the most popular global destinations for Muslim travellers, while Persian Gulf Arab investors have lavished billions of dollars on prime London real estate and stakes in key British businesses.

One US-based academic, who studies Muslim communities in the West, and who spent his childhood in the UK, said that Islamophobia in the UK is no longer confined to extreme neo-fascist groups – and was actually becoming part of the ‘establishment.’

Saeed Khan – lecturer in the Department of Near East & Asian Studies at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan, where he teaches Islamic and Middle East History, Islamic Civilizations and History of Islamic Political Thought – said this stands to impact tourism and investment.

“Islamophobia is no longer confined to just these fringe elements. We find politicians, opinion-makers and journalists who are not simply doing the bidding of these fringe groups, but in many ways are championing their rhetoric in demonizing Muslims,” Khan said. “That’s deeply disturbing and it will have an impact.”

Khan said there has “always been a latent Islamophobia” in the UK, but said economic concerns, fears over the future of Europe, as well as the rise of the so-called Islamic State (IS) and the attacks on the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris have all contributed to the recent upsurge.

Rising Islamophobia poses a threat even to investment from Persian Gulf states such as Qatar, which has bought up several prime areas of London and high-profile buildings such as The Shard skyscraper, Khan added.

“Those kinds of investments are going to be at risk if people feel as though England is now becoming a hostile environment,” said Khan.

“The Arabs have always felt a natural affinity toward the British… But we’re no longer in 1971 and as that generation is starting to wane, new generations are coming up who don’t have that sense of cultural affinity or natural bond. So for them the issues of investment and affinity are much more negotiable.”