Monthly Archives: January 2011

  BBC Radio 4’s ‘Face the Facts’ programme last Thursday centred around the issue of Islamophobia and whether sections of the British press were contributing to increased tensions within communities by publishing negative stories about Muslims. The programme was presented by John Waite. 

The main thrust of the programme was the tendency on behalf of certain sections of the British press to feature Muslims as extremists or as a threat to Christianity or the British way of life. The argument presented in the programme was that some newspapers focus disproportionately on negative stories to do with Muslims, “often distorting the truth in the process.”

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  Tony Blair was criticised by Palestinian officials for being biased in favour of Israeli security needs and seeming to advocate an ‘apartheid-like approach to dealing with the occupied West Bank”, according to the leaked ‘Palestine papers’.

Blair is the British envoy of the Middle East Quartet, which is a group made up of the United Nations, the US, the EU and Russia and is designed to mediate in the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians.

Blair’s duty as the envoy to the quartet is described as being to “boost the West Bank economy and improve Palestinian governance” but he has been criticised for prioritising Israeli security needs over Palestinian economic needs.

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ONS   Martin Beckford, in today’s Telegraph, cites the findings of a report published last Thursday by the Office for National Statistics on social trends, titled “Lifestyles and Social Participation”.

The report states that one in three churchgoers ‘actively practises’ their faith compared with more than two-thirds of Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists. 

The findings published by the report include:

“In 2008/09, 32 per cent of adults aged 16 and over in England and Wales who reported being Christian actively practiced their religion, compared with 80 per cent of those who reported being Muslim”

“The largest proportion of those with a religious affiliation reported being Christian, with 72 per cent stating that this was their religion. The next most common religious groups reported were Muslims (4 per cent) and Hindus (2 per cent), while 1 per cent reported being Sikh and 1 per cent reported being Buddhist.”

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Local paper, the Harrow Observer, reported of an event held in Harrow Central Mosque in London on 22nd January in which “some of the most inspirational Muslims” spoke about their careers and the role religion plays in their lives. The event, ‘Inspiring Islam’, attracted a 300-strong audience.

From the report:

“Among those taking questions from the audience of 300 people were Chief Superintendent Dal Babu, Harrow’s police borough commander; family lawyer Aina Khan; London Assembly member Murad Qureshi; army officer Captain Afzal Amin; and Javed Khan, chairman and chief executive of Victim Support.”

The organiser, Humza Ahmad commented:

“We had various individuals come and give their pearls of wisdom to the youngsters, and community members from the mosque came to show that there’s no restriction on what you can achieve, being a Muslim.”

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  The British Transport Police website informs that three EDL supporters have been fined after being found guilty of subjecting rail passengers to “serious racist abuse.”

From the BTP website:

“Tracey Hurley (33), Stuart Parr (28) and a 17-year old youth, who cannot be named for legal reasons, appeared at Wigan Magistrates’ Court on 20 January for trial.

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  The chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), Trevor Phillips, yesterday told the home affairs committee that politicians need to be wary of “casual stereotyping” of racial groups.

He was referring to recent comments made by former Home Secretary, Jack Straw, on the BBC’s Newsnight programme in which he claimed there was a “specific problem which involves Pakistani heritage men… who target vulnerable young white girls.”

Earlier this month, the tabloid media claimed there existed a culture of silence surrounding incidents of rape and the grooming of young white girls for sexual exploitation in which Asian men are involved for fears of inflaming ethnic tensions.

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  The BBC yesterday reported that a second person has been arrested on suspicion of burning the Qur’an in Carlisle city centre last week. The Daily Mail reported last week that a 32 year old man was originally arrested on suspicion of using ‘racially aggravated threatening words or behaviour’ after burning the Qur’an in Carlisle city centre during “an anti-Islamic rant.”

The DM article stated that the man had been standing in the city centre, “loudly making pronouncements against the Muslim religion in front of a large crowd.”

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  The Observer on Sunday reported that religious leaders and theologians called “highly dangerous” the decision by Education Secretary Michael Gove to leave Religious Education off the list of GCSEs that will go toward forming the proposed new ‘English baccalaureate’, especially given the current climate of Islamophobia.

From the Observer:

“The chairman of the Church of England’s education board, the Bishop of Oxford, the Right Rev John Pritchard, said that failing to take the study of religion seriously was ‘highly dangerous’ at a time when groups such as the English Defence League (EDL) were staging violent protests against British Muslims.”

He added:

“RE is a real tool for creating that kind of cohesive community and society that we’re looking for… we neglect it at our peril.”

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  Reactions to Lady Warsi’s speech at the Sir Sigmund Sternberg Interfaith Lecture last Thursday have been widespread, receiving copious amounts of coverage in news reports and commentaries in the national dailies (see Daily Express, Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph, The Independent and the Guardian).

The DM and DE reported that David Cameron had distanced himself from the remarks of his party chairman. The DM reported a Downing Street ‘source’ as saying, “Her remarks do not represent Government policy.” While the Telegraph noted that Cameron believed Lady Warsi’s subject matter to be an “important debate” and that the PM was “looking forward to hearing what she has to say.”

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    ENGAGE have submitted a contribution to the review of the Press Complaints Commission’s Editors’ Code of Practice. The Code, which forms the basis of media standards overseen by the PCC, is under annual review by the Editors’ Code of Practice Committee.

Read ENGAGE’s submission here.