To tackle Islamophobia in Britain, we need to fight clever

theguardian: by Matthew Goodwin –

Islamophobia is firmly back on the radar of British politics. The increase in attacks against mosques and renewed support for far-right groups reminds us of the need to think seriously about how to root out anti-Muslim sentiment. Today, few serious commentators cling to the bankrupt idea that Islamophobia is not an issue, or is the product of oversensitive British Muslims.

This is why I agreed to join the cross-government working group on anti-Muslim hatred, to ensure that this type of prejudice receives the same resources and effort as Britain’s earlier fight against antisemitism, anti-black racism and homophobia, and that this work is anchored in evidence. But if we are to win this fight, we need to fight clever.

One problem we face are unhelpful opinion polls, which either attempt to show how many Muslims sympathise with terrorists, or how non-Muslims don’t like Muslims. They might be driven by good intentions but often inflame tensions and provide new ammunition to extremists.

And worse, they are often inaccurate. The latest is a poll by the BBC and ComRes, presented under the headline “Quarter of young British people do not trust Muslims“, with a picture of two women in conservative religious dress. Yet, as with many polls, it comes with problems, none of which stopped the BBC running with a headline that will be taken by extremists on all sides as justifying their narrative. On the far right, groups like the EDL will argue this shows young Britons recognise the “threat” from Islam. On the radical religious fringe this will be used as evidence for why Muslim and British identities are irreconcilable, and that Muslims should not give their loyalty to a nation that offers only hate in return. In between are the moderate Muslim and non-Muslim majorities, who will quietly conclude that they are disliked by a new generation of Islamophobes, or that perhaps there is a reason why they should not trust their Muslim neighbours. This is not fighting clever.


Categories: Europe, ISLAMOPHOBIA, UK

3 replies

  1. To tackle Islamophobia in Britain, we need to fight clever

    Labour could set an example by refraining from the use fascistic slogans like ‘One Nation’ and ‘British jobs for British workers’. As long as that kind of language does not change, Islamophobia or any other kind of phobia in the society will not disappear. For me, that article is also serving the marginalisation of Muslims in Britain whilst I’m sure it genuinely intends the contrary. Islamophobia in Europe is as old as Islam. What do you think the Crusade Wars were for? Plus Homophobia is quite old as well and not limited to Muslim people. Therefore inducing the whole debate to the raise of Muslim immigrants is so wrong and only perpetuating the case. Was there any Islamophobia prior to 9/11? And prior to 9/11, how many people knew there were Sunnis and Shia?

    In recent years researchers, including myself, have shown there is a sharp generational divide in British attitudes toward immigration, minorities and Islam. The most rigorous of these studies was carried out by Robert Ford, who tracked attitudes over time to show how British young people are less likely to express prejudiced views. Can anyone clarify this; does Robert Ford’s study show that young people held less prejudiced attitudes or were just less likely to express them? Islamophobia has been created by parliament (and it’s media establishment) to create an enemy out of the people who’s countries we wish to take over for their oil. The same way that communist phobia (?) was invented by politicians because the Soviet Union was viewed as an obstacle to the US empire, post ww2. Surely part of the problem is the media!! They’re the ones headlining the 25% which is a minority. The headline could have read 75% trust Muslims. However, that doesn’t sell I suppose.

    It doesn’t help that the depiction of Muslims in the press is almost entirely negative, or that the stories are often distorted (and in some cases completely made up). For instance, the Daily Mail admitted that the Winterval story they peddled for 14 years was a myth, and a former writer for the the Daily Star confessed that a story about Muslim-only public toilets that generated so much outrage was a total lie, and there was more to the story about the dinner lady fired for serving a Muslim child gammon (she’d served the wrong food to vegetarian children as well so perhaps it was about incompetence and not pandering to Muslims?). So irresponsible and damaging. This country is overdue a debate on Islam. But sadly, the term Islamophobia is used to stifle the debate. People who have concerns about the impact of the religion in this country (which is a large majority) are immediately shouted down and labelled as Islamaphobes. It happened with the Birmingham College incident last week as an example. Do you think Belgium recently banned the burqa, when there were barely even thirty women in the whole country who wore it?’ If barely anybody wears it I can’t see why you’re so upset about it?

    I’m not suggesting sweeping negative stories relating to Islam or extremists under the carpet, but tell the positive stories as well. Like how last Christmas Blackburn Muslims banded together and donated 5 tonnes of food and £1,000 to a Christian run food bank to feed the poor. Or how Muslim students in London set up a Ramadan Tent to feed the homeless. Or about the Muslim Snow Patrol who volunteered to clear our streets last Winter. Or the Muslim donors in Bradford who saved the city’s last synagogue. Or the Muslims in Tower Hamlets who supported gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell. Or the Inclusive Mosque initiative which seeks to open mosques that are mixed (not segregated) with women led players and are welcoming of gay Muslims. Tell those stories too. Islamophobia is firmly back on the radar of British politics. The increase in attacks against mosques and renewed support for far-right groups reminds us of the need to think seriously about how to root out anti-Muslim sentiment. And where are the Westminster politicians talking about this issue? Where are the constant condemnations of attacks on places of worship? There is a conspiracy of silence, which is only making things worse. We must accept this problem exists, and condemn it publicly and forcefully, before we can resolve it. Who is prepared to do that in UKIP Britain?

    It goes without saying racism in all its pernicious forms should be opposed tooth and nail and that includes anti Muslim racism. In my opinion, an increased level of participation of minorities, Muslims included, in civic society and politics is possibly the best starter. If all people from minorities in the UK and elsewhere were to start joining trade unions, anti racist organizations, political parties, community based organizations, think tanks and soup kitchens, it would not necessarily herald the end of racism or racist sentiments. But by empowering minorities and enhancing their degree of participation in society, it could create an antidote to the ideology of intolerance exemplified by the likes of the BNP and EDL. The best way to fight intolerance towards minority groups does not necessarily have to entail silencing the intolerant but rather by empowering those who tend to find themselves at the receiving end.

    Does anyone remember the recent story of the Bradford mosque which offered tea and biscuits to the EDL campaigners who were protesting outside it? No? Thought not. Just this one simple act was enough to change the minds of many of the EDL members present. The only side of Islam portrayed by the media is one of a hateful and intolerant bunch who are responsible for many of the world’s woes. Nobody ever reports the positive side of the religion

  2. Islam is not compatible with British culture. Islamophobia means an irrational fear of Islam. There is nothing irrational about fearing Islam. Indeed, considering the Islamic beliefs on Woman,head scarfs, and Sharia, it is eminently sensible to fear Islam. British politicians have allowed this cancer to grow in our midst.

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