Monthly Archives: September 2008

 

Arab Media Watch (AMW) has issued a report on its analysis of news and headlines in the British press that erroneously refer to Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

From a 3 month study (1 June – 31 August 2008) of British national dailies, the AMW team found that out of a total of 21 article appearances:

12 of the 21 (57%) identify Tel Aviv as the capital, with the remaining nine (43%) identifying it, incorrectly, as Jerusalem.

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Rights of Muslims, letter to Western Mail, 11 Dec 2008

Citizenship classes should not isolate, letter to Birmingham Post, 10 Dec 2008

Muslim neighbours, letter to The Independent, The Rev. Stephen Griffith MBE, 27 Oct 2008

Response to Douglas Murray’s article on Islamophobia and the media, letter to Standpoint Magazine, Yusuf Smith, 27 Sept 2008

‘Rotten Boroughs’, letter to New Statesman, Yusuf Smith, 8 May 2008


Rights of Muslims, letter to Western Mail, 11 Dec 2008

SIR – In a discussion between Stephen Green of Christian Voice and Patrick Jones on BBC Wales’ Dragon’s Eye, Mr Green stated that Muslims should not be allowed to have a voice in this country.

Did he mean British-born and taxpaying Muslims should keep quiet and have no right of free speech?

The matter that was not taken up since there was the usual curtailment of programme time.

I hope this doesn’t mean Christian Voice has a more fundamentalist agenda than taking offence at a poem.

NORTON EVANS,
Sandfield Road, Burry Port


Citizenship classes should not isolate, letter to Birmingham Post, 10 Dec 2008

Dear Editor,

We are writing in response to the Communities and Local Government’s announcement about citizenship classes for mosques and madrassahs.

Meaningful discussion with mosques is long overdue and the focus on the faith dimension, particularly the Quran and the Hadith’s (stories based around the Prophet Mohammed and how he conducted his life) are a vital part of understanding Islam and being a ‘good Muslim’. This initiative is therefore to be welcomed. However, there are a number of key issues:

It is crucial the madrassahs and mosques chosen to participate in this include those ‘informal’ mosques that are run voluntarily by local community members as well as the larger, well established and more organised ones, that may in fact need less support.

It is surprising and disappointing that Birmingham is not benefitting from the pilot programme, particularly given the high profile anti-terrorism raids in a City where the ‘Preventing Violent Extremism’ agenda is a high priority.

We must also remember that initiatives of this nature must be supported by other projects that look to create cohesive communities and must not be carried out in a vacuum. For example, at Ashram we are working with mosques, churches and temples to deliver our successful sports inclusion project in partnership with a broad range of faith-based organisations to bring together children from all backgrounds through sport. This programme must seek to cross existing boundaries, not further entrench them.

As an intercultural agency, our experience shows that the Muslim community wants to make effective and substantial contributions to the wider community, whether that is through education, sport or other programmes. Crucially, the ‘doorstep’ issues that concern Muslims are almost identical to those concerning the wider community, for example better health and education, better community safety etc.

Our work with the Muslim community in the past 5 years, and in particular women and young people, has repeatedly shown us that this section of society wants to engage with a wider community agenda and debunk the unhelpful and divisive mythology that existed about them.

Yes engage with mosques and madrassas – but in the context of engaging across traditional community barriers and not in isolation. After all, a Muslim from Birmingham is as much a Brummie as a follower of Islam.

Ghulam Shabar

Chair of Ashram Housing Association, Birmingham


Muslim neighbours, letter to The Independent, The Rev. Stephen Griffith MBE, 27 Oct 2008

The Security Minister’s warning about radicalised young Muslims needs to be taken with a pinch of salt. Recent research, and Anshuman Mondal’s new book, Young British Muslim Voices, suggests that rather than being dangerous anti-British radicals, most young practising Muslims are community-minded democrats who contribute enormously in terms of “social capital” to wider British society. It really is time we stopped encouraging this hysterical talk and saw our Muslim neighbours as simply that: neighbours. Maybe if civil servants and ministers actually met ordinary people, they would see a very different world.

The Rev Stephen Griffith MBE
Woking, Surrey


Letter to Standpoint magazine on Douglas Murray’s article on Islamophobia and the media, by Yusuf Smith

Dear Sir,

Douglas Murray, in his lame response to the recent Dispatches programme which exposed the upsurge of vilification of Muslims in the media and its effects on Muslims in this country, resorts to the time-honoured tactic of questioning the legitimacy of the term “Islamophobia”. I do not dispute that it is a misnomer, as a lot of neologisms (like “homophobia”, from which it is likely derived) are; however, the term means bigotry or prejudice against Muslims. Of this, there is plenty of evidence.

Anne Frank once noted that when a non-Jew does something bad, people held it to be the work of that person alone, while any bad thing a Jew does was thrown at all Jews. Douglas Murray, responding to the stories about mobs or large groups of Muslims which turned out to be false, responds with examples of what Muslims have done as individuals or in small groups. There is no trend towards Muslim doctors or dentists refusing to treat female patients they deem improperly dressed, so what is the relevance? It is a classic example of the old type of prejudice being visited on a new enemy.

The spate of inflammatory stories about Muslims is nothing trivial. These are often about happenings which are quite rightful (as with Muslims being able to book, and pay for, modest single-sex swimming sessions), or insignificant, or nothing to do with Muslims at all, as with council jobsworths allegedly “renaming Christmas” or banks removing piggy-banks to avoid offending Muslims. With such stories, Muslims cannot win: if it is shown that they are not done in response to Muslim demands, it can be said that “Muslims don’t even have to ask”.

That “exaggerated and faked stories abound in journalism” is not an excuse. If newspapers printed such stories about individuals, particularly wealthy ones, they would risk being sued for libel. As they are about an entire community, the worst they can expect is an unfavourable ruling from the PCC. However, reporting of an inflammatory nature is a common precursor to violence, and we do not need to go as far back as Nazi Germany to find examples; in recent years, we have indeed witnessed attacks on obvious Muslim individuals in the UK, one of which left an imam blind, and buildings. For Muslims to fear violence is quite rational when it is quite acceptable for us to be defamed on the front page of a national newspaper.

(The section in italics was edited from the print version in the magazine).


‘Rotten Boroughs’, letter to New Statesman by Yusuf Smith

As one who was brought up in Croydon and who regularly travels back there for work and social purposes, I must respond to the references to that borough in Brendan O’Neill’s article “What’s driving the BNP?” (5 May).

The northern part of Croydon has had a substantial non-white population for decades, but I have personally travelled on buses and trams there, and have rarely been the only white person in sight. Most of Croydon, incidentally, is predominantly white.

Charlotte Lewis, whom O’Neill portrays as a ditzy woman with a chip on her shoulder, is in fact a former candidate for the British National Party. She stood in the 2006 local elections for the St Helier council seat in Sutton, but was exposed for falsely claiming to live in the borough (a requirement) when she actually lives in Thornton Heath, in Croydon.

At least four other council candidates did the same during those elections.

Matthew J Smith New Malden, Surrey


  The Sunday Express leads with the speech given by Dame Pauline Neville Jones, the Shadow Security Minister at the Tory party conference in Birmingham with a front page that proclaims: ‘Cameron: I’ll curb Muslim fanatics’.

Dame Neville Jones, referring to the recent disclosure of functioning Shari’a courts in the UK said, “We are not going to have any status for sharia courts. Absolutely not.”

“We are not going to have any legal recognition of sharia judgments that would withstand appeal to a secular court”, she said.

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Stephen Pollard writes in The Times (22 Sept), ‘Last week, a variation on the “cry wolf” story emerged which, in its long-term impact, threatens to be far more dangerous to Western civilisation than any banking collapse’. The story he alludes to? News that Shari’a court decisions are enforceable through the county and High Courts.

‘Sharia may not be enshrined in English law, but the real impact of Sharia is just as worrying’, Pollard says.

 

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Bill Carmichael, columnist for the Yorkshire Post writes in response to a High Court decision to deny five former Gurkhas the right to settle in the UK, (‘Loyalty Bonus‘, 19 Sept). Questioning the logic of the decision handed down by the court, Carmichael slips in a  remark that could rival the BNP in its anti Muslim prejudice.  

‘Loyalty and courage don’t count, argued the Home Office lawyer. Even if a Gurkha had won the Victoria Cross, he wouldn’t be allowed into Britain.

Yet if the Gurkhas converted to Islam, entered Britain illegally, claimed benefits, preached that women are inferior and that homosexuals and unbelievers should be murdered, and persuaded impressionable young people to blow themselves up on the Tube – they’d probably breeze in’, he writes.

You can post a comment to the piece online at the Yorkshire Post or write to the editor online here.

BNP Councillor for Marsden ward in Nelson, Brian Norton Parker, writes in Pendle Today that his objection to the postponement of a council meeting that was scheduled during Ramadan was not wrong, as implied, but perfectly reasonable given that ‘it really is incumbent upon them [migrants and settlers] rather than the rest of us to fit in’.

‘I fear the proposal to postpone the Nelson Town Council meeting was a simple stunt designed to demonstrate their perceived separateness and specialness of some Muslims.’

’The British National Party exists to promote the traditional values and culture of these islands. We also believe passionately in individual freedom – any man is entitled to adopt whatever religion he chooses. We do not, however, welcome attempts to impose a worldwide Caliphate by stealth, as exemplified by recent suggestions we adopt Sharia law. In this respect, Islam differs from Judaism and Christianity’, he wrote.

That Mr Parker goes from postponing a meeting during Ramadan out of concern for Muslim councillors to the imposition of a Caliphate by stealth or the wholesale adoption of Shari’a in the UK is perhaps to be expected given his party colours. And it is of no surprise that he should distinguish between Islam and the other monotheistic religions, Judaism and Christianity. Islam has become something of a hobby horse for the BNP and Mr Parker’s letter is just another sad example.

A leaflet claiming that Muslims are ‘almost exclusively responsible’ for the heroin trade, has been distributed to hundreds of households in Lancashire, Cumbria and Yorkshire.

The leaflet calls for a process of ‘naming and shaming’ Muslims for ‘positive effect’ on the drugs trade which it claims originates in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The leaflet urges people to ‘heap condemnation’ on Muslims and for Muslims to ‘apologise’ for their part in the trade.

The National Association of Muslim Police (NAMP) has complained against a Crown Prosecution Service decision to not prosecute the distributor. The CPS claims that while the leaflet is racist, there is not sufficient evidence of stirring up racial and religious hatred and therefore, no offence has been committed.

 

 

The Pew Research Centre publishes a report on the rise of ethnocentrism entitled ‘Unfavourable views of Muslims and Jews on the increase in Europe‘.

The Washington-based Centre’s global attitudes survey found that favourable opinion of Muslims in European countries is declining compared to previous years’ surveys with 52 percent in Spain, 50 percent in Germany, 46 percent in Poland and 38 percent in France holding negative attitudes toward them. 

The survey also finds a rise in anti semitism in Europe though states that Britain is the only European country without a substantial increase in anti-Semitic attitudes.

“There is a clear relationship between anti-Jewish and anti-Muslim attitudes,” the report states.

“(Those) that view Jews unfavourably also tend to see Muslims in a negative light.” 

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Zia Sardar in the New Statesman, lays bare the current obsession and courting of ‘ex Islamists’ by the media and Government. ‘To stand up and declare that you are an ex-fanatic or an ex-Muslim is now the shortest route to fame and fortune’, he writes.

Why? Because ‘When it comes to Islam we are ready to believe anything and everything. Anything that seems to help us fight fundamentalism is deserving of uncritical support.’

‘The exes also enable us to perform a neat con-trick’, he says. ‘By embracing them and their call for “Islamic reform”, we appear to demonstrate our support for the Muslim community – thus drawing attention away from the fact that we continue to discriminate against, and marginalise, the majority.’

Or, otherwise, a case of the Government seeking quick fix solutions to more pressing problems with the spin doctor’s guarantee that sidling up to the ‘exes’ will look good in the morning papers.

  The Sun reports on Sadiq Khan MP’s ‘Fairness not Favours’ pamphlet published by the Fabian Society, in typical lopsided style under the heading ‘Muslims think they are victims‘.

While listing extensively issues the Labour assistant whip thinks Muslims must tackle to improve their standing and engagement with wider society; English language competency, gender equality in mosques, and learning to take more responsibility for themselves and their families, it gives no space to the more fundamental argument on which the pamphlet is premised – promoting fairness, not dispensing favours.