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Tackling Islamophobia – is the Government doing enough?

Tackling Islamophobia – is the Government doing enough?

Categories: Latest News

Tuesday December 30 2014

Communities Secretary, Eric Pickles, in a guest column in the Daily Express yesterday outlined the work being undertaken by the Department for Communities and Local Government to tackle anti-Semitism following an escalation in reported incidents in the last year.

Pickles, referencing the DCLG report, Government Action on Anti-Semitism, writes of the funding to be made available to Jewish schools for security, tackling anti-Semitism online and tackling anti-Semitism on university campuses.

Pickles refers to some of the anti-Semitic incidents which have occurred stating, “Jews have been physically attacked, cemeteries desecrated and the walls of Jewish homes daubed with vile and offensive graffiti.”

He also takes aim at Tower Hamlets Council for displaying the Palestinian flag during the summer, in an act of solidarity with Palestinians, writing, “Even some councils have behaved irresponsibly. Like Tower Hamlets, engaging in their own municipal foreign policy by flying the Palestinian flag. These public bodies should be using their position of authority to actively reduce tensions, not stir them up.“

Pickles overlooks other councils which also displayed the Palestinian flag, such as Preston, Edinburgh and Glasgow. And the claim that the move was in some way an abuse of public authority, or an attempt to stir up tensions, ignores the democratic will of local communities who supported their local council’s in the flying of the Palestinian flag.

While the Government’s efforts to tackle anti-Semitism are to be lauded, it is difficult to ignore the more lacklustre response from DCLG in relation to rising Islamophobia.

In the year following Lee Rigby’s murder in May 2013, many police forces disclosed a doubling in Islamophobic hate crime across the UK, according to figures compiled by the Press Association on the back of FOI requests. In London, the Metropolitan Police Service recorded an eightfold increase in the two weeks immediately after Lee Rigby’s murder with Islamophobic attacks in May, June and July more than doubling in the capital. In our annual submission to the Office for Security and Co-operation in Europe, we have documented physical attacks, gravestones desecrated and vile and offensive graffiti painted onto the walls of Muslim homes and Islamic institutions.

In response to criticism from the Muslim Council of Britain last year, over the Government’s failure to take anti-Muslim hatred seriously, the Communities Secretary responded to explain the number of times Ministers had made statements condemning assaults on Muslims, security advice offered to mosques and other Islamic institutions to guard against attacks (note, no mention of public funding for security measures), and a number of feelgood initiatives that DCLG had introduced, such as the Big Iftar and commemorating Muslim contributions to the world wars.

As we’ve stated before, the Communities Secretary’s contrasting attitude to tackling anti-Semitism and Islamophobia clearly illustrates what the MCB referred to as the “collective unwillingness to treat anti-Muslim hatred seriously.”

But there is a further dimension to the contrast in Government responses to anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. In a short comment piece in last week’s Jewish Chronicle, Marcus Dysch, shed light on current political manoeuvrings stating, “How do you know an election is on the way? Politicians suddenly fall over themselves to speak to the Jewish community.”


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