Major report on Islamophobia calls for independent inquiry into Prevent

Runnymede Trust report

A major new report on Islamophobia has called for an independent inquiry into the government’s controversial Prevent counter-terrorism strategy, which is widely perceived in the Muslim community as targeting Muslims.

“Islamophobia: Still a challenge for us all” by the Runnymede Trust was launched in Parliament on Tuesday.

The report said: “There is substantial evidence that among the government’s four counter-terrorism strands, the current Prevent policy is discriminatory, disproportionate and counterproductive.

“Given the mounting evidence, the independent review must answer whether the Prevent strategy should be withdrawn and how to better separate the state’s security apparatus from wider safeguarding or social policy strategies.”

The report also urged the media to tackle inaccurate and discriminatory reporting on Muslims. It said a press regulator should investigate the prevalence of Islamophobia, racism and hatred espoused in the media.

“Media regulators should intervene more proactively in cases of allegedly discriminatory reporting, and in so doing reflect the spirit of equalities legislation, as recommended by the Leveson Inquiry,” the report stated. “Where inaccurate or misleading content is published, corrections or retractions should be given equal prominence, and not relegated to a small box in an inconspicuous position…

“The press and the wider media should publish data on the ethnic and class diversity of their journalists, editors and senior management, and establish targets in line with local working-age populations.The government should establish a group of media practitioners, and representatives from the press, local authorities and race equality NGOs, to initiate new strategies to combat racial prejudice in the media and negative public perceptions of minority ethnic groups. All politicians should show greater accountability for the impact on race relations of negative media coverage and misrepresentation of minority ethnic and religious groups.”

The report also called for:

– The government to adopt a definition of Islamophobia as anti-Muslim racism.

– Public services and private and charity sector employers to collect more data on Muslims.

–  The government to reintroduce a target to reduce child poverty, and develop a wider anti-poverty strategy.

– Employers and employment support organisations to address barriers to equal labour market participation.

– Local mayors and Police and Crime Commissioners to ensure appropriate resources are allocated to tackling hate crime effectively at a local level.

Commenting on the report, Baroness Sayeeda Warsi said Islamophobia is Britain’s “latest bigotry blind spot.”

She said: “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. 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…

“Of all the challenges to a cohesive Britain at ease with its Muslims, the hostile press environment is the most worrying. The daily poisoning of the discourse around British Muslims has intensified, and shapes our collective understanding of the challenges we face. It informs dialogue across the country, from Parliament to the local pub. The fact that as a country we have allowed this scourge of Islamophobia to grow should worry us all.”

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