“After his acquittal on the charge of inciting racial hatred, Nick Griffin was asked whether he was a racist. He replied that he was no longer one, that he is now a ‘religionist’. But should we believe that Griffin has really abandoned the racism that frames his ideology and that of the party he leads? Of course not. All Griffin has done is stretch from one category of racism to another – without breaking with the former: from a discourse founded on racial hatred to one based on religio-racial hatred.
“In the speech for which he and his assistant, Mark Collett, were taken to court, the two shifted effortlessly from referring to Islam as ‘this wicked, vicious faith’ that ‘has expanded from a handful of cranky lunatics about 1,300 years ago’, to speaking of Asian ‘muggers’, ‘rapists’, ‘bastards’, ‘cockroaches’ and ‘ethnics’ who need to be ‘shown the door’.
“We are witnessing the emergence of a new type of hatred, where religion and culture overlap with race and ethnicity. The climate generated by the war on terror – stoked further by the inflammatory speech on Friday of the MI5 director general Eliza Manningham-Buller – has allowed the far-right to redirect its poison of exclusionism from specific racial minorities to specific religio-racial minorities: from the black and Asian, to the Muslim black and Asian.”
Soumaya Ghannoushi in the Guardian, 13 November 2006
A cross-cultural group of 20 prominent world figures has called for urgent efforts to heal the growing divide between Muslim and Western societies. They say the chief causes of the rift are not religion or history, but recent political developments, notably the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The panel, drawn together by the UN, says a climate of mutual fear and stereotypes is worsening the problem. To combat hostility bred of ignorance, they want education and media projects.
The Alliance of Civilisations, which includes Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu and former Iranian President Mohammed Khatami, dismisses the notion that a clash of civilisations is inevitable, but says that swift action is needed. Their findings were presented in a report to the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan at a ceremony in Istanbul on Monday morning.
BBC News, 13 November 2006
Only two secondary schools in the municipal educational system of Antwerp allow their students to come to school with a Muslim veil. Most refuse entrance to girls who come with a veil. More and more schools elsewhere in Flanders are also adding a ban on the Muslim veil to their regulations.
Various Flemish immigrant organization think that the government should intervene. They point out that banning the Muslim veil reduces the chances of getting a good education. “Immigrant girls can’t choose freely anymore to which school they go and which subjects they will study there. That undermines their chances on the job market,” says Nadia Babazia from the Support Point for Immigrant Girls and Women that researched the wearing of the Muslim veil in Flemish schools.
Islam in Europe, 13 November 2006
Teachers have been warned that bullying prompted by Islamophobia is on the rise in schools across the country.
BBC News, 13 November 2006
See also “Prayers at school ‘lead to abuse'”, BBC News, 13 November 2006.
People’s Assembly: Islamophobia and the War on Terror
Saturday 18 November 10.00am – 5.30pm
Camden Centre Judd Street London WC1H
How are the attacks on Muslims linked to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan? How can the anti-war movement counter those attacks in its continuing campaign to end the Bush/Blair wars?
The People’s Assembly will bring together peace and anti-war groups, trade unions, faith groups and organisations, community groups, political parties and any other representative organisations wishing to discuss these important issues. Individuals are also welcome as observers.
More details on Stop the War Coalition website.
“If it is left to the Nick Griffins among us to acknowledge what is clearly quite widespread concern about Islam, we will never be able to have the serious, substantial debate that we need about the role of Muslim practice in Britain. How is a liberal democracy to deal with an illiberal orthodoxy in its midst? How can a faith whose own laws often contravene those of its host society make its peace with the secular state? These are questions that need urgently to be addressed. They cannot be fudged by banning ‘religious hatred’, or by insisting that anyone who alludes to them (or who resents the problems that they raise for our society) is a bigot fit only to be fodder for the neo-fascist fringe.”
Janet Daley in the Daily Telegraph, 13 November 2006
Melanie Phillips joins the chorus of condemnation provoked by Gordon Brown’s suggestion that the racial hatred laws need tightening up to prevent the fascist BNP inciting hatred against Muslim communities:
“… racial hatred is entirely different from being offensive about a religion. Unlike racial hatred, which targets people, religious hatred is directed at an idea. And in a free society, there should be no place for criminalising the clash of ideas, however much upset this may cause…. Mr Brown is doubtless keen to burnish his credentials as a Prime Minister-in-waiting by displaying his toughness against all extremism…. But he doesn’t seem to realise that outlawing hatred of religion would undermine this fight, by shutting down crucial debate about Islam and its role in global terror…. Mr Brown’s view plays directly into the hands of those Muslims who try to stifle debate about Islamic terrorism on the grounds of ‘Islamophobia’….
“What makes people vulnerable to the BNP is the enormous gulf between ministerial rhetoric and action. It is staggering, for example, that in deprived Newham, the Government is allowing the largest mosque in Europe to be built on the site of the Olympic village – a piece of Islamist triumphalism to be funded by the Tablighi Jamaat, a group described by intelligence sources as an ‘ante-chamber’ to al Qaeda…. The BNP is exploiting a deep weakness in our culture. Only if British society and its values are defended with the utmost vigour and their attackers given no quarter will the poisonous boil of the BNP finally be lanced, and bigotry of every kind shown the door.”
Daily Mail, 13 November 2006
If we need help in “showing bigotry the door” Melanie Phillips will of course be the first person we turn to.
“The widespread refusal to face up to the reality of Muslim extremism is one of the most dispiriting and dangerous traits of modern Britain…. Instead of confronting extremism, the majority of Muslim leaders prefer to bleat about so-called Islamophobia, parading their grievances over everything from the veil to British foreign policy. Any reference to the terror threat is airily dismissed as the work of a tiny criminal element divorced from the moderate mainstream. But this will not wash, for there is mounting evidence that a singifican number of Britain’s 1.7 million Muslims are sympathetic to violent jihadism.”
Leo McKinstry in the Daily Express, 13 November 2006
One of the Church of England’s most senior figures today risks a row with the Muslim community by suggesting that Islamic women should not wear veils in public.
In a wide-ranging interview with the Daily Mail, Dr John Sentamu warns that “no minority” should impose its beliefs on the rest of society and that the veil causes Muslim women to “stick out”.
The Archbishop of York – who ranks second in the Church’s hierarchy – also says the BBC is biased against Christians because Anglicans don’t threaten to “bomb” the corporation.
Daily Mail, 13 November 2006
See also “Archbishop questions role of veil”, Evening Standard, 13 November 2006
Responding to Eliza Manningham-Buller’s speech, Tory leader David Cameron makes his recommendations for countering the threat of terrorism: “… we need to change our attitude to human rights. The Human Rights Act was a new Labour flagship but its totemic status has made ministers unwilling to acknowledge how much it is hampering the fight against terrorism.”
Cameron also advocates “a much more rigorous approach to combating Islamic fundamentalism. The government seems confused as to what fundamentalism actually is. On the one hand ministers – perfectly reasonably – express concern about women who wear the veil while teaching. On the other hand they pay for extremist preachers of hate such as Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who supports suicide bombings, to attend conferences. We need to embrace genuinely moderate Muslims…. Those who distance themselves from terrorism while seeking to radicalise young Muslims into despising the West are part of the problem. Groups like Hizb ut-Tahrir should be banned.”
Sunday Times, 12 November 2006
As Osama Saeed points out, here Cameron rejects one of Manningham-Buller’s own points – that it is a mistake to “confuse fundamentalism with terrorism”.
Rolled Up Trousers, 12 November 2006