The Home Secretary Theresa May MP has been voted the year’s worst Islamophobe at the IHRC’s Islamophobia awards.
May, who beat her ex-cabinet Tory Party colleague Michael Gove to the prize, has been a driving force behind the introduction of yet more repressive legislation targeting the Muslim community.
This includes the new Counter Terrorism and Security Act which obligates professionals such as teachers and doctors to spy on Muslims and allows border officials to seize passports of people (read Muslims) suspected of travelling for “terrorist” purposes.
According to the IHRC, the continual targeting and scapegoating of Muslims using anti-terror laws and the government’s ever widening anti-radicalisation PREVENT programme has been responsible for creating a climate of hostility that encourages acts of discrimination, abuse and violence against them.
It has successfully “otherised” Muslims and created a popular perception of them as a security threat. Moreover, despite the explosion of such laws on the statue book in recent years the threat of terrorism in the UK has arguably increased rather than diminished in the same period.
May joins a distinguished list of previous winners including US president Barack Obama, Tony Blair and former head of the British National Party Nick Griffin.
The poll is held online by the Islamic Human Rights Commission every year with candidates nominated before being voted for by the general public. The awards are a light-hearted swipe at public figures and organisations whose actions have generated or perpetuated hatred and/or violence against Muslims or their religion.
Islamophobia remains a serious problem around the world and has been hugely exacerbated by the western protagonists of the so-called War on Terror who have responded to challenges to their hegemony by eroding their commitment to human rights and scapegoating the entire Muslim ummah and the faith of Islam as a security threat.
Maajid Nawaz wins UK’s worst Islamophobe
While May’s success might have been expected, the winner in the UK category came as somewhat more of a surprise. That’s not because he is any less Islamophobic but rather because instead of himself instigating Islamophobia he is more usually associated with relentlessly currying favour with those who do.
Maajid Nawaz, co-founder of the anti-Muslim think tank Quilliam, drew the ire of fellow Muslims by tweeting a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad (saw) and appearing to side with Western satirists in making light of him.
Nawaz has also continued to make a very successful living out of his status as a poster boy of Islamophobes, regularly appearing in the media to demonise Muslim organisations and individuals who don’t espouse his own “liberal” positions as extremist.
The Hollywood box-office hit, American Sniper, shot down all competition to easily win the Movie/Book/TV category. Directed by Clint Eastwood the movie re-tells the story of the most lethal sniper in US military history, Chris Kyle, who killed over 160 people during his four tours in Iraq.
Critics have described it as a jingoistic apology for an illegal combatant who revelled in the killing of Iraqis, including women and children. In his autobiography on which the dramatisation is based Kyle gloats about his killings and describes his victims as “savages” and “despicably evil.”
The romanticisation of his life in American Sniper has led critics to accuse the film of normalising Islamophobia and inspiring hatred against Muslims and Arabs.
There is no surprise in the “media” category this year where serial nominee Fox News topped the poll.
The jingoistic American news network remains a major source of misinformation about Islam and Muslims and continues to take delight in their demonisation. In January this year it indulged the Zionist Islamophobe Steven Emerson in a now infamous interview in which he described Birmingham as a no-go area for non Muslims and said that gangs of Muslim religious police in parts of London beat up people who are not wearing Islamic clothes.
There are also no prizes for guessing the winner of the “International” category.
The French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo which was the target of a murderous attack in January won the prize here for its continual stoking of Islamophobic sentiment by caricaturing Muslims as terrorists and ridiculing their beliefs.
Charlie Hebdo’s repeated mocking of Muslims is part of a culture of hate that is intended to marginalise, further alienate and further endanger a community that has effectively been “otherised” in much the same way that Jews were in Nazi Germany.
The annual Islamophobia awards have come to be known as a tongue in cheek swipe at those in public life who have perpetrated or perpetuated acts of hatred against Muslims and their faith.
However apart from subverting the stereotype of Muslims as angry and fun-hating religious fanatics, the awards have a serious aspect in that they also recognise the efforts of individuals and groups who have striven to combat Islamophobia.
There are four winners this year:
Imam Achmad Cassiem – A veteran of the anti-Apartheid struggle in South Africa, Imam Cassiem is a veteran campaigner against racism and Islamophobia. He joined the armed struggle against the oppressive apartheid regime as a 15 year-old boy and at the age of 17 became one of the youngest people to be imprisoned on Robben Island alongside Nelson Mandela. Today, Achmad Cassiem is an Imam and Founder of the Islamic Unity Convention in South Africa and a tireless campaigner against Islamophobia on a national and international level.
Abdel-Rahmène Azzouzi – Professor Azzouzi is a councillor in the French city of Angers. Earlier this year he decided to stand down from his position in protest at the rampant Islamophobia in his country. He announced his decision in a frank open letter published widely in France in which he described French secularism as a weapon used to attack Muslims. Azzouzi decried the Islamophobic policies of the state saying that they risked making France the most Islamophobic nation in the world.
Arun Kundnani – One of the country’s leading authorities on Islamophobia, Kundnani has unpicked the raft of anti-terror laws and policies enacted since the turn of the millenium and analysed their impact on Muslims. In 2014 his new book ‘The Muslims are Coming: Islamophobia, Extremism and the Domestic War on Terror’ was published to great acclaim. Based on several years of research and reportage in the UK and US, the book is the first comprehensive critique of counter-radicalisation strategies, an area in which Kundnani has developed an unrivalled expertise.
Community of Cold Lake, Canada – When the local mosque in Cold Lake, Alberta was vandalised last year the non-Muslim community rallied round to help their Muslim neighbours clean up and repair the damage. Islamophobes had attacked the mosque overnight spraying messages such as “Go home” on the building. After Friday prayers volunteers cleaned up the graffiti and removed the racist scrawlings. Some even taped messages like “You Are Home” and “Love Your Neighbour” on the mosque windows to show their support. The response was a perfect demonstration of a community coming together to oppose bigotry and Islamophobia. It set off a trend whereby local communities rally round to offer their support to the victims after such incidents.