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.