The Government has continued to implement legislation that disproportionately affects Muslim communities and contributes towards their stigmatisation and marginalisation. Among the most controversial legislation, the statutory PREVENT duty enshrined in the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015 has a particularly negative effect on British Muslims, while the ‘Snoopers’ Charter’ attributes to the security services and other public bodies extensive powers to mine citizens’ electronic records.
Furthermore, regarding airport detentions under Schedule 7, the former Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, David Anderson QC, has noted that Schedule 7 detentions and examinations were imposed upon members of ethnic minority groups to a greater extent than “their presence in the travelling population would seem to warrant” suggesting evidence of disproportionate, but not racially discriminatory, use.
While countering violent extremism is a policy priority, it should not be pursued at the expense of civil liberties that define our society and culture, or in a manner that provokes a landscape in which Muslims are simultaneously blamed for the violent actions of others and demonised as contributing to the problem.
- Commit to fostering social cohesion and community resilience to all forms of extremism, and support de-radicalisation programmes that work with Muslim communities – not against them.
- Commit to repealing the statutory PREVENT duty, and engaging with Muslim communities to form an effective, evidence-based and non-discriminatory counter-terrorism strategy.
- Commit to curbing the encroachment of counter-terrorism policies on civil liberties by reviewing all counter-terrorism legislation enacted since 2000.
- Commit to increasing transparency over the referrals made under the Channel programme.
The Race and Religious Hatred Act 2006 is ineffective and unfit for purpose. Indeed, current legislation that enables the prosecution of Islamophobic hate crime is an extension of established race relations legislation where ‘religiously aggravated’ crimes have been added to the existing racial motives for prosecuting offenders.
Since Muslims do not form a racial group, race relations legislation which protects communities such as Jews and Sikhs does not extend to Muslims. This means that the more workable burden of proof applicable under the ‘incitement to racial hatred’ does not apply to incidents of Islamophobic hate speech.
As a result, since the creation of the Race and Religious Hatred Act 2006, there have been less than a handful of prosecutions for ‘incitement of religious hatred’ due to the unworkable burden of proof required.
- Commit to a review of the 2006 Racial and Religious Hatred Act and consider primary legislation to deal with social media offences and online hate speech.
- Commit to more third party reporting centres for hate crimes against Muslims.
In recent years, lobbyists, Islamophobes and some right-wing media outlets have tried to curb Muslim rights such as halal meat, Shariah wills and the wearing of the niqab.
The topic of halal slaughter is but one example of how hysteria is fuelled by some of these media outlets. While attention within these debates is focused almost exclusively on halal practices, issues that affect the wider meat industry are routinely overlooked.
Living in a democracy, mutual respect and tolerance is key – regardless of our own personal views regarding the practices of others. The irony, of course, being that Muslims are frequently accused of being intolerant of others.
Particularly in light of Brexit negotiations, the future of the UK’s human rights commitments are unclear, and there is no current blueprint for the proposed British Bill of Rights. This has left many Muslims feeling insecure and worried about the security of their basic human rights.
- Commit to preserving the Human Rights Act and the protection of minority rights, including rights to religious slaughter, male circumcision and wearing of religious dress or symbols.
- Commit to supporting the growth of the shari’ah compliant financial services industry and product development.
The Muslim population in Britain has a very young demographic profile, with 33% of Muslims in Britain aged 15 or under according to the 2011 Census. However, they continue to face significant economic disadvantages, with 46% of Muslims living in the 10% most deprived districts in England and Wales. BME students, including Muslims, are also less likely to have parents in higher management careers, go on to ‘elite’ universities, or gain first-class degrees.
Bullying motivated by racism also remains a widespread problem in schools with Childline’s Can I Tell you Something report highlighting a 69% increase in racist bullying. This report also emphasised frequently used terms as being a bomber and terrorist.
In addition to this, the NSPCC reported an increase in helpline calls relating to racial and religious bullying or hate crimes in Manchester and London. Muslim, as well as Sikh, Christian, Black and Jewish children as young as nine have contacted the helplines, some of whom have reported that the treatment they have experienced is so cruel that they have physically harmed themselves, and many have expressed a wish to be someone else.
- Commit to developing teaching materials to educate young people on Islamophobia, racism, and anti-Semitism, and prioritise religious education in the national curriculum to prepare young people for life in a religiously plural society.
- Commit to strengthening powers of teachers to deal with racist and Islamophobic bullying in schools, whilst supporting the education sector in developing Islamophobia awareness training programmes designed to equip staff with the skills to identify and tackle hate incidents in schools.
Young British Muslims will have accounted for one quarter of the growth in the UK’s working age population between 2008 and 2018. Despite this, Muslims experience a significant level of disadvantage in the labour market.
Studies have shown that Muslims are paid between 13-21% less than their Christian counterparts. Simultaneously, there is evidence that CVs submitted under a non-Muslim name are three times more likely to solicit an offer for interview than those with a Muslim name attached. Furthermore, a survey conducted by MEND, involving over 1,000 people, discovered that around two thirds of Muslim women feel that they have been treated differently due to wearing a hijab.
Muslims were more likely to report discrimination than any other religious group. They are also frequently victims of frustrated ambitions as they are under-represented in the higher positions within their professions. A Demos report ‘Rising to the Top’ in 2015 revealed that ‘British Muslims were less proportionately represented in the managerial and professional occupations than any other religious group’.
- Commit to tackling religious discrimination in the workplace and address the low level of economic activity among Muslims through targeted interventions at all stages of recruitment, retention and promotion, and improving access to employment for British Muslim women in particular.
Studies by Lancaster University and Cardiff University demonstrate the extraordinary level of prejudice Muslims suffer from parts of the mainstream media. Such academic studies show that for every one positive or neutral reference to Muslims in print press, there are 21 negative references.
Meanwhile, Muslims are often stereotyped as ‘the other’, backwards, violent, extremist and opposed to British values. This is despite the fact that British Muslims declare the highest ‘loyalty to the UK’, alongside British Sikhs. Debates on issues of integration and social cohesion are permeated by the growing problem of far-right extremism, coupled by no clear governmental definition of ‘extremism’- let alone ‘non-violent extremism’. Political events such as Brexit and the rise of the political far-right across Europe have given fresh impetus to hostility against Islam and Muslims.
In April 2017, the cross-party think-tank, Demos, presented their analysis of anti-Islamic content on Twitter between March 2016 and March 2017. During this period, analysts discovered that 143,920 Tweets had been sent from the UK that are considered to be derogatory and anti-Islamic – this amounts to 393 a day.
- Commit to media reform and the full implementation of the Royal Charter on a Leveson compliant regulator.
- Commit to support industry initiatives to promote positive, diverse representations of Muslims and minorities in the mainstream media.
The disproportionate use of Stop and Search and Schedule 7 powers on minority communities continues to demonstrate their impact. Although welcome steps have been made in both areas, further work is required to ensure racial and religious stereotyping is prevented.
By 2002, the ratio of Black to White stops had reached 8 to 1, while figures published by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission in separate reports in 2010 and 2013 found that this ratio continues to be unacceptably high. Similar findings were seen in 2015/16, with those from BME groups being three times more likely to be stopped and searched than their white counterparts. Furthermore, figures showed that just 16% of stops led to an arrest, with 76% of stops resulting in “no further action”.
Furthermore, while the representation of minority communities within the police force has improved, the overall representation still remains low and short of the current targets. Moreover, there is an urgent need to tackle the continuing growth in Muslim prisoner numbers. In April 2017, it was revealed that Muslims constitute 15.2% of the prison population, despite representing only 4% of the general population over the age of 15.
- Commit to improving BME recruitment to the police service, including through the use of affirmative action measures.
- Commit to tackling the high number of Muslim prisoners through schemes to facilitate rehabilitation, cut re-offending and develop pathways for social inclusion.
Regarding Britain’s foreign and international policies, Muslim countries have consistently been in the spotlight since 2001. The invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan continue to have resonance, as do the allegations of abuse and ill-treatment against citizens of those countries at the hands of the British Armed Forces. These revelations have been accompanied by government inquiries into the kidnapping and rendering of terrorist suspects by the Secret Intelligence Service and the Security Services.
Developments since 2015 also include the rise in hate crimes against Muslims in the aftermath of the vote to leave the European Union, as well as the attempts by US President Donald Trump, to ban people from a number of Muslim countries from entering the USA. Furthermore, the ongoing conflict and continued illegal settlement building in occupied Palestine is of global concern.
It is imperative that there is a return to meaningful negotiations resulting in a much needed resolution. This must be followed by an immediate recognition of the State of Palestine
- Commit to support the creation of an independent state of Palestine and the end to Israeli occupation of the Palestinian Territories.
- Commit to democracy and human rights promotion abroad, including the rights of religious minorities.