Muslims in Britain have urged the government to take seriously the threats they face as anti-Muslim hatred is reaching worrying heights in Britain and across Europe.
ENGAGE launched a unique exhibition and a month long campaign “Islamophobia Awareness Month“, highlighting the spread of Islamophobia in the British parliament where speakers included MPs Simon Hughes, Jack Straw, Peter Bottomley and Sadiq Khan.
Azad Ali of the Muslim Safety Forum said the exhibition in the parliament was aimed at showing to the parliamentarians that Muslims were ordinary people like any other community who were in sports, business, public and social life. He said racists and fascists groups like the English Defence League are pushing the thesis of hatred and creating a climate of fear and suspicion against Muslims.
Sir Iqbal Sacranie said Islamophobic prejudice is prevalent in the mainstream on display in political life, in the media and in the attitudes of the police and the courts.
Lancaster University academic Professor Tony McEnery briefed how he had researched British media for 11 years, analysed over 200,000 media articles written on Islam and Muslim and found that media was biased towards mainstream Muslims and promoted negative connotations. He told The News:
“Our research amounted to 143 million words of journalism. Right-wing tabloid press was hostile towards Muslims and linked Muslims generally with violence and extremism. Left wing or liberal tabloids were less hostile. The Sun, The Daily Star, Daily Mail, The Telegraph and Daily Express were found to be anti-Muslim. The Guardian was the least anti-Muslim newspaper.
“The right wing papers mentioned Muslims and extremism together. For every one moderate Muslim mentioned, 21 examples of extremist Muslims are mentioned in the British press. It is also interesting to note that so-called ‘moderate Muslims’ often got praised in a way, which implies they are good because they aren’t fully Muslim.”
He said Muslims who just get on with their lives aren’t seen as newsworthy, so it’s the likes of Abu Hamza who are more likely to attract press attention.
Despite the headline to this report, nobody at the ENGAGE meeting called for an extension of the blasphemy law. The point that was made was that there is an urgent need to strengthen the largely useless religious hatred law so that Muslims have the same protection as Jews and Sikhs do under the racial hatred law.