Activists, journalists and trade unionists have urged communities nationwide to fight the “last socially acceptable form of racism” – Islamophobia.
At Saturday’s Stop Islamophobia conference, supported by an array of organisations including Stop the War Coalition, the British Muslim Initiative and Unite, speakers highlighted the relationship between daily attacks on Muslims promoted by mainstream politics and the media and the “war on terror.” Conference heard that paranoia over Islam and the “mushrooming” of the English Defence League “were no accident.”
Respect councillor Salma Yaqoob said Islamophobic attitudes were not just the preserve of far-right parties like the BNP and Ukip but were entrenched in mainstream political discourse. “It’s shocking that a country like Switzerland that we associate with being neutral and progressive is so paranoid that it is banning the building of any more mosques with minarets, even though there’s only four in the country,” she said.
Journalist Seumas Milne said the current situation where “white male politicians in Europe are dictating to women what to wear in the cause of freedom and liberal values” evoked British and French colonial history in north Africa. He said:
“They were trying to ban the hijab in the supposed cause of progress and freedom, but actually in the cause of empire and repression. In its modern incarnation Islamophobia is the direct result and ideological underpinning of modern imperial wars, of occupation and intervention.”