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Islamophobia has grown stronger across Britain, report says

14 11 17

IThere has been an “intensification and banalization of Islamophobic sentiment, policy and practice in Britain” according to a landmark report.

The report also urges the British government to adopt the term “anti-Muslim racism” to tackle hate and discrimination.

Twenty years after popularising the term “Islamophobia” in a 1997 report on discrimination against Muslims in Britain, the Runnymede Trust, a race relations think-tank, has today published a new report on the topic, Islamophobia: Still a Challenge for Us All.

The report states that over the last two decades, awareness of the discrimination Muslims face has grown. However, politicians, civil society and public services need to “wake-up” and address Islamophobia in all its forms.

Baroness Warsi, the former co-chair of the Conservative party and the first Muslim woman to serve in the Cabinet, writes in the introduction to the report:

“In 2011, I said that Islamophobia had passed the dinner-table test. I was speaking about those who display their bigotry overtly, but also those who do so more subtly in the most respectable of settings – middle-class dinner tables.”

She adds: “It is this more covert form of Islamophobia, couched in intellectual arguments and espoused by think-tanks, commentators and even politicians, that I have spent the last decade trying to reason with.”

The Trust sets out an updated definition for the term Islamophobia, defining it as:

“Any distinction, exclusion, or restriction towards, or preference against, Muslims (or those perceived to be Muslims) that has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life”. 

While the report focuses on anti-Muslim hate, it also addresses the barriers that prevent Muslims from fully engaging in society.

Recommendations

The report covers a range of issues, with contributions from 23 academics and authors on the impact Muslim discrimination has had on issues such as the labour market, mental health, Prevent, counter-extremism and gender.

Prevent, the government’s anti-extremism strategy is criticised as “discriminatory, disproportionate and counter-productive” and the report recommends an investigation on whether frontline staff’s “existing biases and stereotypes” were contributing to how much more likely Muslims are to be referred to its de-radicalisation programme.

“While the guidance states that Prevent is intended to deal with all kinds of terrorist threats, it is difficult not to read into it a clear targeting of Muslims,” authors Barbara Cohen and Waqas Tufail write.

Other recommendations include collecting more race equality data, having employers address the barriers Muslims face in the labour market and investigating Islamophobia in the press.

Each chapter of the report also holds individual stories of discrimination and hate from workplace discrimination to verbal abuse and bullying.

Jasvir, a lawyer in London, says he faces a barrage of hate online including comments such as: “Once you niggers fuck off to curry land”, or being called “Bin Laden”.

He says that recently some far-right groups have been running campaigns to allow their followers to differentiate between Sikhs and Muslims.

“This is a strategy that tries to sow divisions in communities. When I have been targeted I never say ‘I’m not Muslim – don’t attack me’ – no one should be attacked or harassed.”

Runnymede Trust

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