The rising tide of Islamophobia

Islamophobia does not appear to be being taken seriously by the Government, the media or the general public and the situation is becoming increasingly dire – why this is remains unclear. It could be because of a lack of understanding and recognition of the seriousness of Islamophobia; it could be because little ‘hard evidence’ exists; it could also be that anti-Muslim and anti-Islamic attitudes are becoming more socially acceptable. Whatever the reason though, it is clear that neither Islamophobia – nor indeed anti-Semitism – are going to quickly or easily disappear.

Last week’s bleak report on Islamophobic hate crime in London from the European Muslim Research Centre argues that fears and misunderstandings of Muslims were increasingly providing a basis for violent acts. The report found that Muslim Londoners face a threat of violence and intimidation from three primary groups: small violent nationalist groups with similar ideologies as the British National Party; street gangs with no allegiances to the far-right; and a small number of others who appear to be acting on prejudices gained via negative media portrayals of Muslims as terrorists and security threats.

But hate crimes are just the tip of the iceberg. Anti-Muslim and anti-Islamic attitudes are also increasingly commonplace. As the British Social Attitudes Survey recently highlighted, not only are Muslims the least popular religious community in Britain today but over half the population would be bothered by a large mosque being built in their community. Neither of these attitudes are specifically Islamophobic but they do suggest a hardening of attitudes especially when Muslims and Islam are considered against other religions. As Professor David Voas provocatively put it, Muslims are increasingly being understood as posing a threat to British society.

Chris Allen in the Daily Telegraph, 12 February 2010