The Muslim community in Britain “has been targeted against the backdrop of hostility buttressed by the war on terror,” stated a report issued by the London-based Institute of Race Relations in 2013. This report warned that racial violence across Britain is not “something consigned to history” citing police force statistics from 2011/2012 documenting over 100 racially or religiously aggravated crimes per day.
Islam is the second largest identified religion in Britain behind Christianity. Half of the twenty communities across Britain with the largest Muslim populations are located in London. Muslims comprised five percent of England’s population with the majority having ancestral roots in Pakistan and Bangladesh not Arab countries.
Ugly Islamophobia ran rampant during the recent mayoral election in London that ended with the historic victory of Sadiq Khan, a London born lawyer and liberal Labour Party Member of Parliament who is now the first Muslim to head any major Western capital.
Top members of Britain’s ruling Conservative Party, including Prime Minister David Cameron, along with minions in the news media, pointedly painted Khan as a person who eagerly embraced Islamic extremism despite Khan’s record of condemning extremism. Khan, during that mayoral campaign, tacked increasingly rightward in advocating militarised responses to terrorism.
Britain’s Defence Minister, Michael Fallon defended Conservative Party campaign attacks on Khan as merely the “rough and tumble of elections” during a media interview. Yet the former co-chair of Britain’s Conservative Party, Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, castigated her party colleagues for unleashing an “appalling dog whistle campaign”. Even the sister of Khan’s Conservative Party challenger used the word ‘sad’ to describe the tactics utilised during her brother’s mayoral campaign.
Much of the news media coverage of Khan’s historic election referenced the Islamophobic attacks unleashed on that man whose working-class parents immigrated to London from Pakistan. Yet that coverage omitted wider references about Islamophobia beyond noting pledges of presumptive US Republican Party presidential candidate Donald Trump to bar Muslims, like Khan, from entering the United States. (Trump has flip-flopped saying he would not bar Khan.)
A few weeks before Khan’s historic victory, Mubeen Hussain, founding member and spokesperson for the British Muslim Youth Association, criticised Islamophobia during his presentation at a conference on political policing and state racism in the United Kingdom. Hussain said many Muslims are now obscuring their religion to avoid discrimination.
The Prevent programme, according to a British government document, seeks “to stop people from becoming terrorists or supporting terrorism”. That document declares that no evidence exists to support claims that Prevent programs “have been used to spy on communities”.
Another presenter at that subversion/spying conference, sociology Professor Mark McGovern, said Prevent and other government policies are now requiring even schools, universities and hospitals to engage in reporting, even from the perspective of concerns about a possibility of future affiliation with terrorism. McGovern feels such policies are devised more to cultivate a “culture of compliance” than to stop terrorism.
Islamophobia shares similarities with anti-Semitism, especially in the notion that those who are religiously and/or culturally different from the majority of a population are a threat to that dominate population, said Fiyza Mughal, founder of Tell Mama, a London-based organisation that monitors Islamophobia and aids victims of Islamophobia.
This article has been excerpted from: ‘Islamophobia on the Rise in England’.