British Muslims: modern Britain's success story?
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Friday April 04 2014
Fraser Nelson, the editor of The Spectator, writes in his column in the Daily Telegraph today about “British Muslims [being] truly among us” and that “the integration of Muslims can now be seen as one of the great success stories of modern Britain”.
Nelson makes a comparison with the Dutch and the French’s troubles with integration and national identities to deduce “Britain is marked out by the trouble that we are not having”.
Although he notes the press coverage of stories such as the “Islamic takeover plot” in several Birmingham state schools which makes the ‘blood boil’, he still concludes that the real story is the “striking amount of harmony” between Britain’s diverse community groups.
While he acknowledges the BNP has shifted its focus from racism to Islamophobia, he concludes “Islamophobia simply does not exist as a political force” in Britain.
In his plight to convey the insignificance of the BNP, he asserts that “next month’s Euro-elections are likely to bring about the burial of the BNP, as the protest vote goes to UKIP.” What he fails to acknowledge is the number of UKIP members, candidates and supporters, not least MEP Gerald Batten in London, whose views about Muslims are not so far removed from the BNP.
Even the Prime Minister, David Cameron, who attended the Muslim News Awards for Excellence this week, recognised the existence of the “glass ceilings and walls” Muslims face in British society. Cameron, in his speech at the ceremony, remarked on the obsolescence of these barriers if we are to become “a truly diverse and equal nation.”
It is evident that Nelson overlooks the 2011 Equality and Human Rights Commission report on religious discrimination in Britain between 2000 and 2010. Led by Professor Paul Weller, the report concludes: “evidence across a wide range of research suggests that Muslims appear to experience religious discrimination with a frequency and seriousness that is proportionately greater than that experienced by those of other religions.”
For example, a Citizenship Survey carried out in 2009-10 found that Muslims across England and Wales were more than twice as likely as the average person to regard racial or religious harassment as a very or fairly big problem in their local area. Weller’s report also notes that anti-Muslim alliances have been formed between right-wing groups and immigrant and ethnic minority groups.
Nelson in his rose-tinted optimism claims that the 7/7 London bombings did not result in “an anti-Islamic backlash”. While that may be true, the more recent spike in anti-Muslim attacks after the murder of Drummer Lee Rigby tells a wholly different story.
Nelson’s article does underscore points raised in a comment piece published last year by the former deputy editor of the Independent, Ian Birrell, who argued that Britain had ‘nothing to fear’ from its Muslim citizens. Rather, anti-Muslim prejudice is the real obstacle to integration and is so often manifest in far right hate speech and the “acceptable bigotry of Islamophobia which, Baroness Warsi argued, had “passed the dinner table test”.
Indeed, anti-Muslim discrimination is exacerbated by media coverage of Islam. Weller’s report also observes the media’s tendency to “present Islam as a problem”. A significant factor in our work with the Leveson Inquiry and support for the Leveson compliant Royal Charter.
The press industry’s response to the cross party Royal Charter has been a bullish determination to proceed with its own charter, Ipso, which neglects key recommendations that would help stem the media’s reckless and alarmist reporting on Muslims. Nelson overlooks the importance of these developments and their significance to the regard of British Muslims as ‘truly among us’.