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Policy Area

Policy Area 1: Racial and Religious Equality

MEND urges the UK Government to adopt the definition of Islamophobia produced by the APPG for British Muslims: “Islamophobia is rooted in racism and is a type of racism that targets expressions of Muslimness or perceived Muslimness” and apply this definition in conjunction with the guidelines outlined within our Manifesto (see p17-18). There is also a need to tackle inadequate legislation on racial and religious hate crime and similar Islamophobic hate speech on social media. 

Policy Pledges:

  1. Commit to adopting the definition of Islamophobia produced by the APPG for British Muslims: “Islamophobia is rooted in racism and is a type of racism that targets expressions of Muslimness or perceived Muslimness”, and apply this definition in conjunction with the guidelines that MEND has produced.
  2. Commit to a review of the 2006 Racial and Religious Hatred Act with a view to strengthening legal protections afforded to religious communities.
  3. Implement primary legislation to deal with social media offences and hate speech online and commit to working with social media companies to protect free speech while developing an efficient strategy to tackle hate speech online in consultation with Muslim grassroots organisations.
  4. Commit to financing mosque security in a manner that is proportional to risk, in line with what is already correctly provided to Jewish religious institutions.
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Policy Area 2: Youth and Education

Islamophobia in the education system impacts Muslim children and their development in a wide variety of ways. From being bullied explicitly regarding their faith, to being stigmatised and reported to the PREVENT strategy for views they may hold, and to being interminably questioned on their apparent divergence from (thus far ill-defined) “British Values”, Muslim children are struggling to navigate this complex maze. Meanwhile, controversies such as the alleged “Trojan Horse” affair and Amanda Spielman’s proposals as Chief Inspector of Ofsted to question schoolgirls who wear the hijab highlight the obsessive scrutiny and problematisation of Muslims within the sphere of education.

Policy Pledges:

  1. Commit to prioritising PSRE and PSHE within the national curriculum and ensure grassroots Muslim organisations are enlisted to assist in developing teaching materials to educate young people on the dangers of Islamophobia.
  2. Commit to supporting academic freedoms and initiatives to decolonise education, whilst giving greater emphasis within the national curriculum to shared histories and the contributions of minority communities in building our society.
  3. Commit to developing training programmes for teachers focussed on tackling and addressing bullying based on race, religion, disability, or sexuality.
  4. Commit to supporting faith school provisions in the state sector for Muslim pupils and parents.
  5. Commit to implementing Shariah-compliant student loans to encourage more British Muslim students to attend university.
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Policy Area 3: The Labour Market

Studies have shown that Muslims encounter discrimination at all levels of recruitment, retainment and progression; face high levels of unemployment; and are disproportionately confined to unskilled professions or jobs with limited opportunities for progression.[1] The Government’s Social Mobility Commission cited a number of barriers to success for Muslims in the employment sphere, including ethnic minority sounding names being less likely to be offered interviews and Muslims feeling forced to work “10 times as hard” as their white counterparts in order to achieve equivalent levels of success.[2] Meanwhile, Muslim women face a triple penalty in the employment sphere due to being women, being from an ethnic minority background, and for being Muslim.

Policy Pledges:

  1. Commit to tackling religious, racial and gendered discrimination in the workplace through targeted interventions at all stages of recruitment, retention and promotion.
  2. Commit to the use of name-blind applications and targeted interventions within employment aimed at tackling the triple penalty and improving access to employment for British Muslim women specifically.

Commit to supporting employers to recognise and accommodate religious festivals and religious observance within the workplace, including the provision of halal meat, prayer rooms, and flexible work hours during Ramadan.

[1] Roger Dobson, British Muslims face worst job discrimination of any minority group, according to research”, Independent, November 30, 2014, accessed June 12, 2018, https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/british-muslims-face-worst-job-discrimination-of-any-minority-group-9893211.html.

[2] Anushka Asthana, “Islamophobia Holding Back UK Muslims in Workplace, Study Finds,” The Guardian, September 07, 2017, accessed May 10, 2018, https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/sep/07/islamophobia-holding-back-uk-muslims-in-workplace-study-finds.

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Policy Area 4: Media and Broadcasting

Studies have also shown that, with 21 negative references to Muslims within the British press for every single neutral or positive reference,[1] the media plays an integral role in spreading prejudice, stereotypes, and xenophobic views of British Muslims. This, in turn, directly contributes to hate crime, discrimination, and marginalisation of Muslim communities.

Meanwhile, the failures of the current regulator, IPSO, and the Government’s continued failure to fully implement the Royal Charter on Press Regulation leaves little recourse for tackling Islamophobia in the mainstream press. At the same time, the lack of diversity within broadcasting and the continued confinement of Muslim actors and characters to stereotypical roles and representations is an issue in need of redress. Therefore, the broadcasting industry needs to be supported in devising initiatives to promote positive portrayals of Muslims.

Policy Pledges:

  1. Commit to the full implementation of the Royal Charter on press regulation.
  2. Commit to the commencement of the second part of the Leveson Inquiry, including an investigation into the prevalence of Islamophobia within the media.
  3. Support initiatives by the broadcasting industry to promote positive portrayals of Muslims in the media.

[1] See Baker, Paul, Costas Gabrielatos, and Tony McEnery. Discourse analysis and media attitudes: the representation of Islam in the British Press. Cambridge: University Press, 2013.

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Policy Area 5: Crime, Policing, and the Criminal Justice System

Over the past decade, the number of Muslims in prison increased by over 48%, with Muslims now constituting 15% of the total prison population, despite amounting to less than 5% of the general population.[1] MEND urges policymakers to commit to investigating structural Islamophobia within the Criminal Justice System. Any examination of the overrepresentation of Muslims within the Criminal Justice System must take into account cultural stereotypes, socio-economic challenges, and a lack of diversity within the Criminal Justice System itself.

Policy Pledge:

  1. Commit to investigating structural Islamophobia within the Criminal Justice System.

[1] “The Lammy Review: final report”, Gov.uk, September 8, 2017, p. 3, accessed 23.10.2017 https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/lammy-review-final-report

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Policy Area 6: Security and Counter-Terror

MEND calls on political parties to commit to independently reviewing all counter-terrorism legislation enacted since 2000 with a view to curbing the encroachment of counter-terrorism policies on civil liberties. MEND is of the firm belief that the PREVENT duty should be repealed and welcomes the independent review of PREVENT as a crucial first step in tackling the detrimental impact of ill-conceived counter-terror strategies on Muslims’ abilities to fully enjoy their social, civic, religious, political, and economic rights. However, there are signs that this review may not be truly independent nor wide enough in its scope to examine all of the factors that may lead someone to be drawn into acts of politically motivated violence, including the role of foreign policy in such a trajectory. It is interesting to note that, with the announcement of Lord Carlile as the Independent Reviewer, questions have already been raised about his own independence, given his previous support for PREVENT.[1]

Policy Pledges:

  1. Commit to independently reviewing all counter-terrorism legislation enacted since 2000 with a view to curbing the encroachment of counter-terrorism policies on civil liberties.
  2. Commit to recognising the role of UK foreign policy in individuals being drawn to political violence.

[1] Lizzie Dearden, “Home Office faces legal challenge over appointment of ‘biased’ reviewer of Prevent counter-extremism programme”, The Independent, August 2019. Accessed: 13th September 2019. https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/home-office-legal-challenge-prevent-counter-extremism-lord-carlile-a9083486.html

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Policy Area 7: Political Engagement

While data shows a growing trend of Muslim engagement in the field of politics, there remain significant challenges Muslims face when operating within the political sphere. Ultimately, political parties must address structural barriers that exclude Muslims and other minority groups. Meanwhile, studies have identified PREVENT as contributing towards a deficit in civic engagement amongst Muslim students; impacting their ability to engage in certain discussions and deterring them from running for elected positions.[1] Furthermore, as recommended by the 2017 Citizens UK report, Missing Muslims, the Government must mend its “broken relationship”[2] with Muslim communities by reconsidering its policy of disengagement with credible mainstream Muslim organisations that have the trust and support of British Muslim communities.

Policy Pledges:

  1. Commit to proactively engaging and consulting with representative and grassroots organisations within British Muslim communities, including but not limited to Muslim Engagement and Development.
  2. Commit to recognising that Palestinian activism is a legitimate form of political dialogue and commit to protecting the rights of British Muslims to advocate and support Palestinians’ right to self-determination.

[1] “Our Research into the Experiences of #MuslimsInEducation” NUS Connect, March 18, 2018, https://www.nusconnect.org.uk/articles/our-research-into-the-experiences-of-muslimsineducation.

[2] Citizens UK, The Missing Muslims: Unlocking British Muslim Potential For The Benefit Of All, 2017, accessed 05.09.2019, https://www.barrowcadbury.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/Missing_Muslims_Report_-full-report.pdf

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Policy Area 8: Minority Rights and Integration

Despite the protections afforded by the ICCPR, the ECHR, and the Human Rights Act, recent years have witnessed public debates that have challenged Muslim religious practice and observance in the UK. Particular public controversy has surrounded the right to halal meat, the building of mosques, the right to access Shariah councils, and the right to religious dress. Such debates also demonstrate how discourse around issues of religious rights can be used as a proxy argument to marginalise minority communities and Muslims specifically. With continued Brexit uncertainty, it is essential that Human Rights are protected as they are currently enshrined within UK legislation.

Policy Pledges:

  1. Commit to preserving human rights and the protection of minority rights, including, but not limited to, the rights to religious slaughter, male circumcision and the wearing of religious dress or symbols as currently enshrined within UK legislation.
  2. Commit to supporting the protections afforded by the EU Equal Treatment Directive to advance protection against discrimination on the grounds of religion to education, healthcare, housing, access to goods and services and social protection, within UK law post-Brexit.
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Policy Area 9: Adopt the APPG definition on Islamophobia

Policy Pledges:

  1. Commit to adopting the definition of Islamophobia produced by the APPG for British Muslims: “Islamophobia is rooted in racism and is a type of racism that targets expressions of Muslimness or perceived Muslimness”, and apply this definition alongside the CAI guidelines.
  2. Commit to work with schools, transport companies, the police force, and other public and private bodies to tackle Islamophobia at a local level.
  3. Commit to collaborate with the local Muslim community to challenge Islamophobia and to meet their needs such that they are encouraged to participate in public life.
  4. Commit to take further steps to tackle and raise awareness of Islamophobia, such as organising Islamophobia training, holding local events on the issue of Islamophobia, etc.
  5. Commit to work with other local stakeholders such as the local MP to raise awareness of Islamophobia in parliament and urge the UK Government to adopt the APPG definition of Islamophobia.
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