Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Launch of a Report on Islamophobia and Anti-Muslim Hate Crime

Launch of a Report on Islamophobia
and Anti-Muslim Hate Crime

Dr. Mozammel Haque

The Report on “Islamophobia and Anti-Muslim Hate Crime: UK Case Studies 2010” was launched under the auspices of Cordoba Foundation at the London Muslim Centre, London, on Tuesday, 23rd of October 2010. This is the second research of the European Muslim Research Centre (EMRC). Though it is a report, it is quite substantial report. This Report on Islamophobia was sponsored by Al-Jazeera Centre for Studies at Doha, Qatar. Its representative, Dr. Rafiq Abdussalam who is head of Research at the Al-Jazeera Centre for Studies at Doha, came straight from Doha, Qatar, to attend the launch of the Report.

Dr. Rafiq Abdussalam
Dr. Rafiq Abdussalam, who is head of Research at the Al-Jazeera Centre for Studies which is a Think-Tank related to Al-Jazeera Network, said, “We are sure that the European Muslim Research Centre is doing a great job not only for the Muslim community but also for the whole of Britain, a multi-ethnic, multi-religious society and I think this institution is doing a great job at the right time mainly in the context of Islamophobia, the rise of discrimination, the rise of hate, rise of Islamophobia.”

Dr. Abdussalam also maintained, “I think the EMRC is doing an excellent job for the co-existence; for building bridges between religious society and the minority and for the cosmopolitan Britain.”

Professor John Esposito
The next speaker, who has flown a few hours ago from Washington DC, was a very well-known scholar. He delivered a keynote speech at the meeting. He is Professor John Esposito, a University Professor and Director at the Georgetown University. He is Professor of Religion and International Affairs and Islamic Studies at the Georgetown University and the founding Director of the Muslim-Christian understanding. He specialised in Islam, Political Islam and the Impact of Islamic movements from North Africa to South East Asia. Professor Esposito is the recipient of the American Academy of Religion Award 2005 for the public understanding of religion and the Pakistan Quaid e-Azam Award for the outstanding contribution in Islamic Studies; in 2003.

Islamophobia – its background
Professor Esposito started with comparing the word Islamophobia in USA with that of UK, vis-à-vis media in UK and USA. He said, after the 9/11 incident, what I notice with major American media, with those people saying to me how this happened? “This whole idea of Islamophobia? It is unlike in UK where the phrase Islamophobia was used first in 1997. Islamophobia was first major used in media until 2001 when Time Magazine asked whether America was Islamophobic?.”

Islamophobia – a Social Cancer
But talking about reality, Professor Esposito said, “This study shows very very clearly that one can no longer deny actually the existence of the problem which I call the social cancer in Europe; the Americans call Islamophobia. But the extent to which it functions in our society, I think, what is important today is not just talking about new entry of immigrants, political parties in terms of constituencies, that in fact, as a result of presence of Islamophobic language, political commentators. It becomes part of our popular culture.”

Media coverage of Islamophobia
Referring to the coverage in the media of the Islamophobic statements, actions, hate crimes etc, Professor Esposito said, “it is not documented in many places; in America major media has not covered the denunciation of the action terrorism, following 9/11 or 7/7, right down even today; the major events such as the imams message or the common word; you do not get such kind of coverage.”

So what is the problem? “The problem is that the media gives coverage of “the existence of Muslim extremism; the existence of all Muslims terrorists; but what happened is a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of the population of the Muslims in the world is simply equated with the popular mentality with a threat that is coming from majorities. It is interesting about this that when you look at the actual coverage which I am doing as I do prepare very carefully,” said Professor Esposito.

The Islamophobes
Talking about how the reality is unfolded, Professor Esposito said, “If you really take a look at the reality: how the reality is unfolded? The Islamophobes, the political commentators etc. and my beloved Melanie Phillips and so many others and so Daniel Pipes in America etc, - they can say what they want to say and it’s reported and most of all it’s not contextualize. No one say, wait a minute; let’s take good look at the person or what their track records in term of what they are saying about Muslims; what is their backgrounds? How true it is?”

Media coverage of Gallup World Poll
Professor Esposito mentioned that there has been significant polling done as now in Europe and in America and spoke particularly about the Gallup polling. “Gallup not only studied in Europe but it studied in America. And we can face of so too often like Islam is particularly violent religion; most Muslims are not loyal; Most Muslims are not integrated etc. One can lay out hard data to demonstrate; but yet that data is more often that does not come true.”

Professor Esposito also questioned about the coverage of that message such as: the message extremists they issue false fatwa begin by this what does the mainstream Islam represent? And on the other hand, what would be an extreme interpretation and who can legitimately give fatwa and who cannot give fatwa and then you can have for the first time in the history the common word because of the globalisation and the communication ability to mobilise Muslim religious leaders across the world against the state of that. But how much coverage occurs of that?”

On the other hand, Professor Esposito mentioned, “you can have the most Islamophobic statements made some of which has no basis in reality; who make statements by people who does not represent the entire community, or anybody, but that will make the headline.”

To challenge the reality, to face the fact
“So the part of our challenge today is to face the fact by them,” said Professor Esposito and maintained, “We now have to challenge the society, to face the fact. This is something; and does affect both the image of the west and which can be exploited by terrorists overseas as well as within America. And equally, my point of view, it does affect the civil liberty of a significant portion of our population, something that we like to look on other way.”

Educated people
“I am very happy to be here but the reality is wherever I am either in Europe or in America; it is not the question of the media that is here; it is the question about media that are not here. It is not the question about the people or the audience or their profile or whether they are here; the question is the people or the audience that are not here,” said Professor Esposito and added, “Until we respond to Islamophobic attacks or statements, do we realize that the hate speech does lead to hate crimes.”

Peter Oborne
The next speaker was Peter Oborne who is the Daily Telegraph’s chief political commentator; a prolific political commentator, television presenter and author of the Rise of Political Lying, published in 2005; the Triumph of Political Class in 2007

Continental attack on Islam and Muslims
Oborne said, “Europe has an ugly history of taking out, of manifesting its socio-economic problems by attack on minorities and it does seem to have no question of minorities being chosen.” Continental Europe’s choice of minority attack is now Islam and Muslims.

Britain has fabulous history of tolerance
Oborne then referred to German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s remarks and said, “I think Angela Merkel’s remark was chilling deeply coming through the record Germany has in its treatment of minority. It is not just there. We have got episodes in Greece. We have got in Spain and I take comfort, being living in Britain. We have. Fabulous history of tolerance, freedom of liberty; of welcoming minorities. So I do feel we will not follow Europe down the ugly path of, may be, the intense path; but I do think, nevertheless, there are dangerous things happening in Britain too.”

Problem of media narratives
Referring to the Report which is voluminous, Oborne said, “That is why this volume is extremely valuable and an extremely important and I think we have to be alert, we have to educate, as John Esposito has said. I agree that the commentaries the newspapers, the journalists, there is a problem of media narratives. The British press is not really interested in this subject. I can put this What John Esposito is saying is like creation of stereotypes, the vilification of minorities, the use of language is very curious, it appears from nowhere. Extremists, radicals. But it is an odd word.”

We need to find out why
Oborne also said, “I was very distressed by the failure of Sayeeda Warsi. She has done a very good thing, wonderful thing as a first Muslim cabinet minister as a matter of pride I think I do. But the fact that she was asked to or told by the Downing Street not to attend the Global Peace and Unity Conference here few weeks ago, was bad. We need to find out why not.”

Foreign policy
“Anybody, who does not, anybody who does speak out, who does celebrate their identity; celebrate their religion; is somehow treated as Britain shameful doctrine; very shameful doctrine because it is so powerful; it is very powerful in the press. It is very hard to confess; but it is very un-British. Sorry un-British. We have a fabulous record over the centuries enabling different races to celebrate themselves and there is liberal authoritarianism, as no history of Britain and we are total country; we have to make this argument. I am going to stop.”

Dr. Robert Lambert
Dr Robert Lambert, one of the authors of this report; the co-Director of the European Muslim Research Centre at the University of Exeter and a part-time Lecturer at the Centre for Studies on Terrorism and Political Violence at the University of St. Andrews, said, “The evidence on which we report on specific threats to Muslims; violent threats by then relatively young man, is overwhelming and compelling and yet probably for the reason we heard from both of our previous speakers; we will have to do more to prove it,. We will be publishing further report next year, I think, we will have specific report on threat to mosques. I think; violent to mosques and Muslim/Islamic institutions in this country is a serious issue, is a priority research concern for us. In our recommendation, we say to the Government, we say to the police chief. This has to be taken seriously.”

Some dreadful accounts
Dr. Lambert narrated some dreadful authentic accounts. He said, “Some of the Muslim elders lost some of their whole life savings into the building and running fair local Mosques. And they have suffered intimidation, torture, solitary attacks. In many cases they have big attacks; petrol bombing; mosques have been seriously damaged and in other cases, they had on-going vandalism. In many mosques they have given up. Fixing the windows. You know, look what the point is for them up.”

This problem is not going away
Dr. Lambert maintained, “We are actually clear that politicians and senior police officers in this country should have gone to the grassroots level before things get even worse. If you are there going every day to the isolated mosques in the market town in the suburb of the country and you got the English Defence League dropping leaflets into the mosque; you got excrements coming from the letter box; you got pig-heads suddenly arriving over night.”

Dr. Lambert said, “I think, it is fair to say that London is still the target for that kind of media we earlier referred to. Andrew Gilligan will be disappointed if he is not mentioned, again in this context, to mend his business to criticise East London Mosque, Islamic Forum for Europe, London Muslim Centre, anything that has connection where we are today.”

“It is because of the works of the East London Mosque, Islamic Forum for Europe, London Muslim Centre; because of your fantastic youth projects that we have only just begun to highlight in this report. People say why it should be ten-year long. Well, we are not going away. Sure if the problem diminishes within ten years we will be happy to turn our attention elsewhere. But we have to be clear that reductions of hate crime here are the results of partnership work.”

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