LONDON: 12 months after Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, the Conservative Party chairman argued that Islamophobia has “passed the dinner-table test” and had become socially acceptable in Britain, the UK Government has established a cross-government working group to tackle anti-Muslim hatred.
The News/Jang has learnt exclusively that the group is modeled on the hugely influential cross-government working group on anti-Semitism, set up by the previous Labour government for the Jewish community.
The Group is chaired by the Department for Communities and Local Government (CLG) and will have representatives from across government including the Cabinet Office, the Department for Education, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice. This scribe understands that the group will include leading UK academics, Dr Chris Allen from Birmingham University and Dr Matthew Goodwin from Nottingham University.
Imam Qari Asim from Leeds Makkah Masjid, Akeela Ahmed from Muslim Youth Helpline and Fiyaz Mughal of Faith Matters has also been chosen as key members of the group.
In January 2011 Baroness Warsi, the UK’s first Muslim Cabinet Minister, used a speech at Leicester University to raise the alarm over the way in which prejudice against Muslims is now seen by many as normal. Warsi was criticized by many in the press for raising this issue in a forceful manner but the concerns she raised about the prejudice against Muslims on the basis of their faith became a talking point for many days and she won over the backing of many influential political and social figures, including Daily Telegraph’s Peter Oborne who has co-authored with James Jones a pamphlet called Muslims Under Siege, and produced and presented a Channel Four Film on Islamophobia. Baroness Warsi previously raised the issue of Islamophobia with Pope Benedict XVI during his visit to Britain in 2010, where she urged him to help “create a better understanding between Europe and its Muslim citizens”.
Islamic communities and other vulnerable groups have become targets of increased hostility since 11 September. Pakistanis in Britain have become the biggest victim of this bias and the areas where they live have been under attack from the racists and Islamophobes. Britain’s far in particular has switched from attacks on its traditional targets - blacks and Jews - to Muslims instead. They have organized large rallies against Muslims and have developed networks across Europe.
In February this year, Faith Matters, a non-profit group, developed and launched a system called MAMA (Measuring Anti-Muslim Attacks). The new service will produce statistical data on the nature of Islamophobia in Britain. Victims will be able to classify their experiences as one of six types: extreme violence, assault, damage of property, threats, abusive behavior, and propagation of anti-Muslim literature. Details will also emerge of where in the country Islamophobia is most prominent so authorities can concentrate their campaigns most effectively.
Fiyaz Mughal, founder director of Faith Matters, told The News/Jang: “The group which is meeting on Islamophobia and anti-Muslim attacks is looking at developing a work programme around further possible research that can be done in these areas. For far too long Muslim communities have said that they have been subject to these social issues and therefore the government wants to address these concerns. This is to be warmly welcome and this Government is making strides to counter hate crime in general and this is extremely positive.”