The Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC) has launched a landmark report on Islamophobia, which it now says is at alarming levels.
“Environment of Hate: The New Normal for Muslims in the UK” was launched at an event in London yesterday featuring a panel including one of the report authors Arzu Merali, academics Nisha Kapoor and David Miller, as well as prominent journalist Peter Oborne.
Arzu Merali said the report was so significant because – unlike others – it is a long-term study which proves that Islamophobia has become worse over the years.
She said that between 2010 and 2014 the number of people who reported seeing Islamophobia directed at someone else spiked from 50% to 82%. In the same period the number of people stating they had witnessed negative stereotypes about Islam and Muslims jumped from 69% to 93.3%, suggesting these experiences have become almost universal for Muslims.
The IHRC’s Raza Kazim said that everyday life for Muslims in Britain is characterised by “rising abuse and violence” and the report “presents a picture of a community under the twin sieges of racial and religious bigotry.”
With two academics on the panel, there was much focus on the UK government’s Prevent strategy and the way it socialises hatred, particularly within the education system and its institutions.
Nisha Kapoor, of the University of York, talked about the significance of criminalisation and the way disenfranchisement is now being enacted through imprisonment. This is one of the ways a racial hierarchy is maintained, she said. She also stated that all marginalised communities need to form alliances in order to better combat systems of oppression.
“Racism is sustained by criminalising populations. For example, Muslims are only 4% of this country’s population but they comprise 13% of the prison population,” she said. “Racism is a system and all the statistics prove that.”
David Miller, of the University of Bath, referred to the government’s counter-terrorism policies as the “backbone of Islamophobia today” – creating a climate where Muslim children have bank accounts shut down because they are thought of as security risks.
The current state is one where Muslims fear to even speak and thus numerous crimes of hate against Muslims go unreported.
He said: “The government counter-terrorism agenda is the backbone of Islamophobia in this country. This leads to people being attacked on buses. Racists are a product of decisions taken by politicians who may not be racist or Islamophobic themselves.”
He added: “Western state terrorism has killed more innocent civilians than ISIS ever has. And these are CIA statistics I am taking about, not the Socialist Workers Party.”
Meanwhile, the mainstream media came in for much criticism for whipping up anti-Muslim sentiment.
Peter Oborne, of the Daily Mail, said that Islamophobia is something that is necessary for all of us to confront and the onus cannot be placed on Muslims only.
However, he added that “terrorism is a justified concern in this country and recent events in Paris and the Sinai prove this. It is the duty of the government to protect its people and better solutions are needed to face down this problem.”