Fewer than one in four people now believe that following Islam is compatible with a British way of life, Britain’s most senior Muslim minister will warn today.
Highlighting unpublished research showing that a majority of the country now believes that Islam is a threat to Western civilisation Baroness Sayeeda Warsi will say that “underlying, unfounded mistrust” of Muslims is in itself fuelling extremism.
And she will cite new figures from the Association of Chief Police Officers showing that between 50 to 60 per cent of all religious hate crimes reported to police in Britain are now perpetrated against Muslims.
“My fear is that seeing one community as the ‘other’ is a slippery slope that will enable extremists to advance their twisted interests unchecked,” she will say. “I don’t have to remind anyone what happens when an unfounded suspicion of one people can escalate into unspeakable horror.”
Two years ago Baroness Warsi, who has responsibility in Government for faith and communities, was criticised claiming that Islamophobia in Britain “had passed the dinner table test“.
But in her speech to a support service for those who have suffered anti-Muslim attacks Baroness Warsi will say new data supports the evidence of widespread anti-Muslim feeling in the UK.
She will cite new research by academics that shows that just 23 per cent of a representative sample questioned said that Islam was not a threat to Western civilisation.
Just 24 per cent thought Muslims were compatible with the British way of life – with nearly half of people disagreeing that Muslims were compatible. This compares with research among Muslims that showed 83 per cent were proud to be British, compared to 79 per cent of Britons overall.
“When I said that Islamophobia had ‘passed the dinner table test’ I got a fair amount of stick,” she will say. “There were those who denied the problem existed. There were those who said talking about it was dangerous. But let me tell you what’s really dangerous: It’s when a country turns a blind eye towards that discrimination.”
She said preliminary figures from the Association of Chief Police officers found that between 50 to 60 per cent of religious hate crimes were now perpetrated against Muslims – amounting to hundreds of attacks a year.
But Baroness Warsi will warn that not enough leadership is being given by politicians to tackling Islamaphobia and misconceptions about Islam in the UK.
“Anti-Muslim hatred is a form of prejudice and there should be no place in Britain for this prejudice,” she will say. “It would be a more powerful message from a non-Muslim, someone for whom this is not personally painful.
“The fact is that everyone should have an interest in this issue. It’s not just a matter for Muslims or a matter for people of faith. It’s a matter for everyone who cares about Britain being the modern, equal, fair society that we want it to be.”
Update: The National Secular Society posts a link to this report under the heading “Baroness Warsi: It isn’t Islam’s fault that hardly anyone in Britain trusts it”.
Update 2: Over at the English Defence League’s Facebook page its supporters have been expressing their views on the Independent report.