Islamophobia and Racism in UK: Jews, Arabs unite on UK campuses
- Jews, Arabs unite on UK campuses
Trained campus 'ambassadors' to promote conflict resolution, prevent heckling during lectures. Gerald Ronson: When Islamophobia hurts Muslims, it also hurts Jews
Published: 02.24.11, 07:33 / Israel Activism
British campuses serve as fertile ground for heated political debates between Israelis and Arabs, but a new initiative sponsored by Gerald Ronson, one of the wealthiest Jews in the UK, aims to combating anti-Semitism and Islamophobia at universities across the country.
As part of the Campus Ambassadors program, 20 Muslim and Jewish students with leadership skills underwent six months of training in conflict resolution, the Yedioth Ahronoth daily reported on Monday.
The 'ambassadors' for the Coexistence Trust are currently enrolled in 10 of the UK's leading universities, including Oxford, Cambridge and the University of Manchester.
Now that they have completed their training, the students will begin working on joint projects and promote "damage control" activities. For example, the students will make certain that those who are invited to speak at the universities, regardless of their politics, will be able to speak their minds and not be heckled by either Jews or Muslims.
One of the 'ambassadors', Yuval Yaakov, attends Imperial College in London. "My hope is that we will be able to prove that Jew and can coexist and promote productive dialogue," he says.
Coexistence Trust chairman Lord Mitchell, who hosted the launch, said, "Islamophobia is the same poison as anti-Semitism, coming from the same people, and both our communities have to work together to counter all this. Together we can be much stronger than if we try to do it separately."
Ronson added "when Islamophobia hurts Muslims, it also hurts Jews."
The launching of the program at the House of Lords was attended by Baroness Sayeeda Hussain Warsi, the first Muslim woman to serve in the British cabinet.
EDL leadership finally dissociates itself from English Nationalist Alliance
Saturday, February 26, 2011
The English Defence League has finally broken links with Bill Baker and his organisation. According to an EDL statement released yesterday: "The English Nationalist Alliance, and their leader 'Bill Baker', have, in no uncertain terms, been told to take their party politics elsewhere. Bill Baker is not welcome at any EDL event."
You might wonder why it has taken the EDL so long to get round to this. The ENA and EDL have held a number of anti-Muslim protests together – in London last July, in Brighton in August and in Dagenham earlier this month – without any complaint from the EDL leadership. The sudden announcement that Bill Baker is persona non grata in the EDL would appear to be a panic reaction to a detailed exposé of Baker posted on the Exposing the English Defence League blog – and to Baker's response, which has been to threaten violence against the authors.
Two reasons are given by the EDL for breaking with Baker. The first is that Baker publicly debated a Muslim convert in May 2010 without the authorisation of the EDL leadership and "made a complete fool of himself". The second is that "it has come to light that Bill Baker has links with Nazi groups like Combat 18 and Redwatch", and a screengrab of a Facebook comment by Baker is attached in which he says he will send photos of individuals involved in Exposing the English Defence League to C18 and Redwatch because "you fight to kill and these scum are in need of serious confrontation".
What is significant, however, is the parts of Baker's record that the EDL statement leaves out. The EDL raises no objection to Baker's call to "start killing Muslims" and the socialists who support them. They don't appear to have a problem with his proposal to set fire to a Muslim market stall in Barking. Nor do they mention the ENA's support for an arson attack on a mosque in Stoke-on-Trent. No, the EDL leadership attaches more importance to the fact that Baker embarrassed them by debating a Muslim and revealing himself to be an ignorant idiot (and if that were grounds for expulsion from the EDL, how many supporters would they have left?).
Baker has issued a reply in which he accuses Stephen Lennon's PA Helen Gower, who he holds responsible as head of the EDL admin team for the statement excommunicating him, of having neo-Nazi links herself. But let us be fair to Gower. As a representative of the EDL leadership she is well aware of the damaging effect that extremist rhetoric can have on the organisation's reputation. So she restricts herself to posting such comments as "Muslims are total scum bags" and stops short of advocating actual physical attacks on them.
Postscript: It is worth adding that Roberta Moore of the EDL Jewish division is a founding committee member of the English Nationalist Alliance, in which she holds the post of "Co Chairperson, Political Liaison". So, if the EDL leadership have proscribed the ENA and banned Bill Baker, why have they not expelled Moore?
What Britons really think about immigration
New study shows that economic pessimism has led many to feel negative about immigrants – but findings are not all bad news
guardian.co.uk, Saturday 26 February 2011 19.36 GMT
Fear and Hope, the report Searchlight Educational Trust is publishing on attitudes to immigration, identity and multiculturalism, gives those of us committed to the fight against extremism nowhere to hide. The survey of 5,000 people, the largest of its kind ever conducted, is stark, brutal and unequivocal.
Some 39% of Asian Britons, 34% of white Britons and 21% of black Britons now believe all immigration into the UK should be stopped permanently, or at least until the UK's economic situation improves. Meanwhile, 52% of Britons agree with the proposition "Muslims create problems in the UK", and 43% of Asian Britons, 63% of white Britons and 17% of black Britons agree with the proposition that "on the whole, immigration into Britain has been a bad thing for the country". In addition, 48% of Britons say they would consider supporting a new far right-wing party, if it shunned violence and fascist imagery.
These findings will be shocking to many. They shatter many of our liberal preconceptions. And they demonstrate conclusively that when it comes to the narrative of migration and race, our politicians and our community leaders are now running far behind those they seek to represent.
A new politics of identity, culture, and nation has grown out of the politics of race and immigration, and is increasingly the opinion driver in modern British politics. There are now in effect six "identity tribes" in our society. These are: confident multiculturalists (8% of the population); mainstream liberals (16%); identity ambivalents (28%); cultural integrationists (24%); latent hostiles (10%); and active enmity (13%).
The cherished "middle ground" of British politics is occupied by two of these groups; the cultural integrationists, motivated by authority and order; and identity ambivalents, who are concerned about their economic security and social change. Together they make up 52% of the population.
The current failure of the political mainstream risks pushing the identity ambivalents to the right, unless they tackle the social and economic insecurity which dominates their attitudes. This is a challenge for the current government – which is implementing deep spending cuts – and for the Labour Party, which is the traditional home of many of these voters. Almost half of all voters who do not identify with a party are identity ambivalents.
Our report reveals a clear correlation between economic pessimism and negative attitudes towards immigration. The more pessimistic people are about their own economic situation and their prospects for the future, the more hostile their attitudes are to new and old immigrants. The means test appears to have a greater impact upon attitudes towards integration and identity than the cricket test.
Despite the challenging nature of the report, there is much which is positive. Political violence is strongly opposed. Over two-thirds of people view "English nationalist extremists" and "Muslim extremists" as bad as each other. There is a real appetite for a positive campaigning organisation that opposes political extremism through bringing communities together.
But at its heart, Fear and Hope exposes the dangers that lie ahead if the issues highlighted in the research are not addressed. It throws down a challenge to the political parties to really understand what is happening in the body politic and then do something about it.
The future is unwritten and it is all to play for. If we can understand the new politics of identity, then we can win them over. If we fail to do so then we risk their fear turning to hate. It is the challenge we all face, and one we can no longer afford to ignore.
Nick Lowles is the director of anti-extremist group Hope Not Hate
Immigration poll 'disturbing' say anti-racism campaigners
Sunday, 27 February 2011
Searchlight poll finds huge support for far right 'if they gave up violence'
Level of far-right support could outstrip that in France or Holland, says poll for Searchlight
guardian.co.uk, Saturday 26 February 2011 21.08 GMT
Huge numbers of Britons would support an anti-immigration English nationalist party if it was not associated with violence and fascist imagery, according to the largest survey into identity and extremism conducted in the UK.
A Populus poll found that 48% of the population would consider supporting a new anti-immigration party committed to challenging Islamist extremism, and would support policies to make it statutory for all public buildings to fly the flag of St George or the union flag.
Anti-racism campaigners said the findings suggested Britain's mainstream parties were losing touch with public opinion on issues of identity and race.
The poll suggests that the level of backing for a far-right party could equal or even outstrip that in countries such as France, the Netherlands and Austria. France's National Front party hopes to secure 20% in the first round of the presidential vote next year. The Dutch anti-Islam party led by Geert Wilders attracted 15.5% of the vote in last year's parliamentary elections.
Anti-fascist groups said the poll's findings challenged the belief that Britons were more tolerant than other Europeans. "This is not because British people are more moderate, but simply because their views have not found a political articulation," said a report by the Searchlight Educational Trust, the anti-fascist charity that commissioned the poll.
According to the survey, 39% of Asian Britons, 34% of white Britons and 21% of black Britons wanted all immigration into the UK to be stopped permanently, or at least until the economy improved. And 43% of Asian Britons, 63% of white Britons and 17% of black Britons agreed with the statement that "immigration into Britain has been a bad thing for the country". Just over half of respondents – 52% – agreed with the proposition that "Muslims create problems in the UK".
Jon Cruddas, the Labour MP who fought a successful campaign against the British National party in his Dagenham and Rainham constituency in east London, said that the findings pointed to a "very real threat of a new potent political constituency built around an assertive English nationalism". The report identified a resurgence of English identity, with 39% preferring to call themselves English rather than British. Just 5% labelled themselves European.
Earlier this month David Cameron delivered a controversial speech on the failings of "state multiculturalism". The speech was seized on by the anti-Islamic English Defence League, which said that the prime minister was "coming round" to its way of thinking. BNP leader Nick Griffin also welcomed the speech as a sign that his party's ideas were entering "the political mainstream".
The poll also identified a majority keen to be allowed to openly criticise religion, with 60% believing they "should be allowed to say whatever they believe about religion". By contrast, fewer than half – 42% – said "people should be allowed to say whatever they believe about race".
British PM's attack on extremism sparks anger
Paola Totaro, London
February 8, 2011
THE political row caused by David Cameron linking what he called ''passive tolerance'' with Islamic extremism and terrorism looks likely to worsen, as funding is withdrawn from Muslim groups and the British government considers stricter rules for activism at universities.
The British Prime Minister's call for a fresh doctrine of ''muscular liberalism'' and a greater willingness to argue and ''defeat'' extremist ideologies was delivered at a security conference in Munich on the weekend, just hours before a well-publicised rally by the far right in Luton, north of London, providing fuel for 3000 chanting supporters of the anti-Muslim English Defence League.
After Mr Cameron's speech, his government was quick to reject criticism of its timing and to insist it would lead to changes, including the wholesale review of the Prevent strategy set up by the previous Labour government to combat radicalisation of young Muslims.
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The government has already started to withdraw state cash from what it regards as suspect groups that had previously been funded to reach young Muslims.
Ministers are also expecting in the next fortnight a report that has been in preparation for a year from a Universities UK working group on how to combat extremism on campuses.
The working group, including eight vice-chancellors, was established in response to the arrest of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab in the US for attempting to blow up a passenger jet over Detroit on Christmas Day 2009. Abdulmutallab studied at University College London between 2005 and 2008.
The report is likely to call for greater rigour in the selection of speakers and stronger oversight of religious societies.
TV and newspapers covered the arrival in Luton of busloads of English Defence League supporters, while at the other end of the town square counter-protests led by Muslim groups and left-wing students massed before a phalanx of 2000 police who kept the two sides apart.
Downing Street insisted that Mr Cameron's speech had been written months before and to cancel it due to the Luton demonstration would have meant allowing the far right ''to fill the vacuum with their extreme views''.
The speech highlighted the distinction between Islam and Islamic extremism but insisted that Britons should embrace values of freedom and equality and actively promote them in schools.
And while Mr Cameron questioned the encouragement of policies that facilitated different cultures' choice to segregate themselves and live separate lives - and used the world multiculturalism to describe this - he rejected the right-wing mantra that multiculturalism or an excessive deference towards different cultures had resulted in ghettos that generated terrorists, such as the July 7, 2005 British bombers. Rather, he said, ''many of those found guilty of terrorist offences in the UK have been graduates, and often middle-class''.
Haras Rafiq, director of anti-extremist organisation Centri, said he fully supported Mr Cameron's call for a ban on the public funding of Muslim groups that did little to tackle extremism.
''A lot of funding is going to groups that hold vile views that are not acceptable in a tolerant, liberal society like the UK,'' Mr Rafiq said. ''Some support suicide bombing, attacks on British troops in Iraq or Afghanistan and other forms of violent extremism, but they are supported by the government so long as they don't support violence in the UK.''
But Mohammed Shafiq of the Ramadhan Foundation, a Muslim youth group, said Mr Cameron had been ''deeply irresponsible'' to suggest that some publicly funded groups did little to tackle extremism.
''Where are these Muslim organisations that support extremism? I don't believe they exist, and if the Prime Minister believes otherwise he should have the confidence to name them,'' Mr Shafiq said.
Nick Clegg distances himself from David Cameron on violent extremism
Deputy prime minister says 'you don't win a fight by leaving the ring' to extremists
guardian.co.uk, Thursday 3 March 2011 21.28 GMT
Nick Clegg has set out a rival government vision for combating violent extremism, striking a different tone from David Cameron's month-old doctrine to disengage from extremists .
In a speech in Luton, Clegg disagreed with Cameron's disavowal of multiculturalism, was hesitant about moves to ban extremist groups and said he did not share the prime minister's wish to rule out engaging with non-violent extremists. He pointed to his decision to allow one of his ministers to attend the Global Peace and Unity conference – which occasionally hosts controversial Islamic scholars – while Tory chairwoman Sayeeda Warsi was forced to pull out.
In contrast to the timing of Cameron's speech in Munich – the same day as an English Defence League rally in Luton – the deputy prime minister delivered his speech in Luton on Thursday, where he deployed a more emollient tone.
Islamophobia 'acceptable' in UK
British politician says prejudice against Muslims is now socially acceptable and that country is becoming less tolerant.
Last Modified: 20 Jan 2011 14:27 GMT
Prejudice against Muslims has "passed the dinner-table test" and become socially acceptable in Britain, the chairwoman of the country's ruling Conservative party has said.
Sayeeda Warsi, the first British Muslim woman to join the country's cabinet, said in a speech at the University of Leicester on Thursday that Britain is becoming a less tolerant place for believers.
Warsi said that dividing Muslims into "moderate" and "extremist" fuels intolerance as does "the patronising, superficial way faith is discussed in certain quarters, including the media".
The Pakistan-born minister has previously criticised parts of British society for demonizing Muslims in response to the threat from small numbers of extremists.
'Challenge for Britain'
In her latest speech she said that attacks committed by a small number of Muslims should not be used to condemn the entire community.
But she also urgeed Muslim communities to be clearer about their rejection of radical acts.
Britain has around 2.9 million Muslims, around five per cent of the population, according to an estimate in 2010 by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.
Anas Altikriti, the director of the Cordoba Foundation, which works toward bridging the gap between the Muslim and Western world, told Al Jazeera that Warsi should be congratulated for her remarks.
"What it achieves is basically to place this particular issue and this challenge for British society and Britain as a whole firmly on the table of debate," he said.
"I think there is a greater recognition that this is something that has to be addressed in a collective manner."
But he added that comments on their own "don't really do much. What we need ... is a set of policies".
Warsi's comments come after David Cameron, the prime minister, said in his New Year message that Britain still faced a serious threat of attack plots.
"We must ask ourselves as a country how we are allowing the radicalisation and poisoning of the minds of some young British Muslims who then contemplate and sometimes carry out acts of sickening barbarity," he said.
His official spokesperson said on Thursday that Warsi was "expressing her view" and that the prime minister "agrees that this is an important debate".
US pastor banned
Meanwhile, Britain has banned Terry Jones, the US pastor who sparked global outrage by threatening to burn the Quran, from entering the country.
Jones was invited to speak at an event next month, by an anti-immigrant group called "England Is Ours".
But the UK's interior ministry said his presence is "not conducive to the public good".
Islamophobia is the moral blind spot of modern Britain
The dinner party bigot's attack on Islam as a creed can all too easily become an excuse for an attack upon an ethnic group
The Guardian, Saturday 22 January 2011
No one actually comes out and directly says "I hate Muslims" – at least, not on the liberal dinner party circuit that was the target of Lady Warsi's speech. Conversations generally begin with the sort of anxieties that many of us might reasonably share: it cannot be right for women to be denied access to education in some Islamic regimes; the use of the death penalty for apostasy is totally unacceptable; what about the treatment of homosexuals? The conversation then moves on to sharia law or jihad or the burqa, not all of it entirely well informed. Someone places their hands across their face and peers out between their fingers. Another guest giggles slightly. Someone inevitably mentions 9/11. Later, guests travel home on the tube and look nervously at the man in the beard sitting opposite.
The problem Warsi identifies is the problem of slippage. What can begin as a perfectly legitimate conversation about, say, religious belief and human rights, can drift into a licence for observations that in any other circumstance would be regarded as tantamount to racism. Like the 19th-century link between anti-Catholicism and racism towards the Irish, one can easily bleed into the other.
"I treat the Islamic religion with the same respect as the bubble-gum I scrape off my shoe," suggested one contributor to the website of the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science, in response to Warsi's speech. Another offered the following charming observation: "I don't care what the good or bad Baroness has to say about anything at all. I give her no credence nor voice. She is a person of faith so in my book a skinwaste." I cannot think of a single other group in our society about whom such vile remarks would be in any way socially acceptable. And OK, these are comments whose surface grammar is about Islam and religion. Nonetheless, the level of invective is very obviously personal.
The worst sort of dinner party bigot may talk about Islam as a faith but – nod, nod, wink, wink – we all know what they mean. Just as we know that when the British National party celebrates the Christian heritage of this country it is using Christian as code for "not Muslim". In many cases, Muslim can easily become a euphemism for brown. Prejudice like this is a dance of the seven veils that allows just enough insight into one's true meaning and just enough deniability.
None of which is to silence any sort of attack upon religious faith per se. Polly Toynbee was right that "Muslims must accept the right of others to criticise religions without smearing any critic as a racist". While this is undoubtedly the case, the flip side is also true: that the attack upon Islam as a religious creed can easily become an excuse for an attack upon one ethnic group. It is vital that we find a better way of charting a course between these two dangerous snares.
One of the tests for flushing out prejudice from robust but legitimate critique is the extent to which complexity is allowed to enter into the picture. The dinner party bigot may never have been to a mosque or read the Qur'an, but he already knows what he thinks. Life is always simple for the prejudiced. Indeed, the very point about a prejudgment is that it is a conclusion reached before the complexity of the world is allowed to make any difference. The facts are forced to fit a pre-formed picture. What about Islam's historic contribution to science? What about the significant number of women who have become heads of government or heads of state in Muslim countries – Turkey, Pakistan, Indonesia, Bangladesh? So much of this is ignored in the rush to find Islam guilty of crimes against humanity. The good critic, on the other hand, doesn't need to oversimplify in order to make their point. And with so much at stake, rhetorical flamboyance needs to be
handled with care.
The other difference between robust critique and what is tantamount to bullying has to do with the power relations between those involved. The Muslim community in this country is generally more socially disadvantaged and has less access to the levers of power. British Muslims do worse at school than any other faith group, they are more likely to be unemployed and live in poorer housing. It is generally from communities such as this that the prosperous and the powerful find their scapegoats.
This is also why the growing idea that there is in this country such a thing as Christianophobia – an equivalent to Islamophobia – is such total nonsense. Following Warsi's comments, the usual suspects of the Christian right have waded in with another rendition of "what about us?" What about those nice Christian B&B owners who have just been fined for sticking to their sincerely held beliefs about gay couples not sharing a bed under their roof? But the power relations here are altogether different. With bishops in the House of Lords by right, with the monarch being head of the Church of England, with the long history of Christianity shaping our values and culture, Christians are not a persecuted minority, however much they may feel misunderstood.
Islamophobia is the moral blind spot of 21st-century Britain. Warsi got the emphasis wrong in placing responsibility for this at the door of hostility to religion per se – though the tone of that debate is sometimes a proxy for much uglier sentiments. David Hume was right: reason is a slave to the passions, especially our darker ones. The real driver is that otherwise polite people have given themselves permission to be racist. Now is the time to disturb the cosy rules of the dinner party and speak up against the bigots. There may well be a row. You might not get invited back. But so what?
• This article was amended on 7 February 2011. The original referred to the significant number of women who have become heads of state in Muslim countries. This has been corrected.