Monthly Archives: September 2013

Matthew Goodwin, author of Angry White Men, comments on the BBC Newsbeat headline from earlier in the week, ‘a quarter of young British people do not trust Muslims’, in The Guardian newspaper today.

Goodwin believes the BBC feature article on the commissioned ComRes poll gave the misleading impression that Muslims are becoming less rather than more compatible with British life.

Commenting on the types of opinion polls conducted and the news reports framed around them. Goodwin argues the scaremongering that invariably ensues hinders the fight against Islamophobia by presenting a false picture to the public and reinforcing the extremists’ narrative rather than diminishing it.

The BBC Newsbeat article was headlined “Quarter of young British people do not trust Muslims” and featured an image of two niqab wearing Muslim women. Articles of this nature and the images used as illustrations have a dual effect, Goodwin argues.

He writes:  

“On the far right, groups like the English Defence League will argue this shows young Britons recognise the ‘threat’ from Islam. On the radical religious fringe this will be used as evidence for why Muslim and British identities are irreconcilable, and that Muslims should not give their loyalty to a nation that offers only hate in return.

“In between are the moderate Muslim and non-Muslim majorities, who will quietly conclude that they are disliked by a new generation of Islamophobes, or that perhaps there is a reason why they should not trust their Muslim neighbours. This is not fighting clever.”

Examining the timing of certain polls, the ComRes one was conducted soon after the murder of Drummer Lee Rigby, and their single snapshot type – eliciting views one time rather than over a period of time to assess any change in views, Goodwin criticizes the way in which such polls are done and used. He notes that pollsters “never bothered to see whether these views had changed over time or compared them to others in society, and so it was impossible to know if only Muslims felt this way, or everyone did. They were meaningless, but still dominated headlines.”

Goodwin also contrasts the findings of the ComRes poll with those conducted by other researchers, including himself. On research findings elsewhere, Goodwin writes,

“These generational differences reflect wider trends: the fact that older generations have memories of Britain before mass immigration, have little contact with others from different backgrounds and did not benefit from wider access to university education.

“This picture is markedly different for young Britons: they only know a Britain in the EU and welcome migrants, and frequently interact with people from different backgrounds.

“Sure, young people were slightly more likely to say Britain would be better off if there were fewer Muslims, compared with other groups. But still, less than three in 10 held this view and across all religious groups a large majority of young people showed little interest either way: they either thought it would make no difference, or did not know either way.”

Goodwin believes the way forward is by “building stronger bridges between journalists, editors and researchers, and also discussing whether some polls and their press releases should be subject to some kind of peer review.” This he argues would be a “more clever approach” to combating Islamophobia.

A woman who was filmed telling an Asian man on the Tube to “F*** off back to your own country if your country is so good” has been found not guilty of racial harassment the Daily Mail reports.

Accountant Claire Moloney, 40, was filmed screaming at the unidentified Asian man in a hate filled racist tirade on a tube carriage.

The incident happened in November 2010 though Moloney was charged in April on suspicion of racially aggravated assault.

Moloney is said to have engaged in a tirade of verbal abuse telling the Asian passenger:

“I f****** respect people in their countries, f*** you c***.”

“‘You come in this country, you wanna have f*****g everything on a plate. F*** off back to your own country if your country is so good.”

When the victim told her that she was being racist, she replied: “You c**** wanna take over our country, you racist c***, you wanna take over the world.”

Moloney, a mother of two, pleaded not guilty and denied any racism but admitted to being embarrassed by the footage.

Appearing at Snaresbrook Crown Court, Moloney said “I’m not a racist in any shape or form.

“I agree the language is horrific and I am mortified.

“I was half asleep and it was something to do with my poppy and I wondered if it was about me. He said something about blood on my hands for invading his country.

“I know what he said was derogatory and against women in general, and he definitely used the word “slag” because I was out drinking.

“I was insulted and I lost it and I ranted – I was arguing my case. I was in a rage, I lost control and I was ranting but he was goading me.”

Moloney was found not guilty of charges on racial harassment. Jurors decided that Moloney “did not intend her words to cause harassment, alarm or distress”.

BBC Radio 1’s Newsbeat programme covers the results of a BBC commissioned ComRes survey on Young People and Prejudice.

The survey, which questioned 1,001 youngsters aged 18-24, looks at attitudes towards people of different ethnic, religious and national backgrounds. It also explores levels of interaction with people from different backgrounds, the form of discrimination considered most prevalent in the UK, perceptions among the general populace of different religious, racial and ethnic groups and questions of trust.

BBC Newsbeat’s page summarises some of the key findings:

  • When asked about religious groups 27% said they didn’t trust Muslims, 16% said they didn’t trust Hindus or Sikhs, 15% said they didn’t trust Jewish people, that figure was 13% for Buddhists and 12% said they didn’t trust Christians
  • Young people place the blame for Islamophobia in Britain on terror groups abroad (26%), the media (23%) and UK Muslims who have committed acts of terror (21%)
  • Only three in 10 (29%) think Muslims are doing enough to combat extremism in their communities. However, overall young people are more likely to agree (48%) than disagree (27%) that Islam is a peaceful religion
  • Young people are divided over whether or not immigration is good for Britain overall. Two-fifths (42%) say it is a good thing but more than a third disagree (35%)

The Daily Star also covers the ComRes poll. An article in the paper notes the point raised about negative media coverage of Islam and Muslims and its likely impact on shaping views, stating, “But, 26 per cent of young people say terrorist acts abroad and 21 per cent say British terrorists have shaped their views, not the media.”

Hardly surprising that the paper should seek to exonerate the press of the greater share of responsibility when testimony of one former Daily Star journalist pointed to quite deliberate anti-Muslim prejudice in the newspaper’s reporting on Islam.

BBC Newsbeat features the views of a 20 year old woman who told the programme:

“When you hear about terrorism, more often than not it is Muslims that have carried it out. I just feel they’re all out to do that, they’re all the same.”

It is certainly the case that acts of terrorism involving Muslims are regularly reported as such, despite Europol reports challenging the view that it is the most significant source of terror threats against Europe and the UK.

The ComRes survey results can be found here. 

A 14-year-old British Muslim teenager has spoken of her horror when a man tried to pull off her niqab in the street, in an interview with BBC Radio 4 World at One programme.

The teenager describes how a man approached her and tried to rip off her niqab. Although she has been verbally abused before, she never expected someone to launch a physical attack. The teenager spoke of the impact of the assault saying it has “really really affected me”.

She says she no longer wants to go to community events which she always enjoyed in the past and now she fears being attacked again. The girl describes how she felt “horrified, really really upset and a feeling of anger…thinking why would you do that to me?”

The teenager explained in the interview that the wearing of niqab was her own choice because her religion commands her to dress “modestly” and although some people disagreed she “personally feels she should wear it”.

When asked of its significance to her, she replied:

“I don’t want to become an object that can be dressed up. I’m a person and I want to be judged on my intellect and the way I speak, what I speak and not on the fact that I’m wearing a sort of clothing or how my face looks.”

She tells that the interviewer that “half my friends don’t wear it” and that “my dad didn’t tell me to wear it”.

When asked if she is missing out by covering up, the girl replies:

“Not at all…I feel like I’m escaping all the teen pressures which people in my age group because I can see friends how they have to have everything that’s designer, everything that’s perfect, everything has to be in trend…when I go out I don’t have to be dressed in a particular way, at all.”

The interviewer asks the young girl about views held by others saying “some might argue you should dress like people who live in this country, so you should wear jeans and a t-shirt and not cover yourself up and look normal…what would you say to that?”

“I was born here, I live in Britain and I know that one of the biggest British things about British people is their tolerance and their acceptance of other people.

“If I want to dress how I want to, don’t you think it would be part of British culture to accept it? And I’m not doing anything that is really against the law because I don’t do anything that might disrupt other people or harm people,” she replied.

This interview comes at a time of heightened tensions on the niqab and women who wear it following the decision by Birmingham Metropolitan College’s to invoke a ban. The decision was later reversed.

The attack on this young schoolgirl follows a string of similar attacks on niqab and hijab wearing women in recent weeks.

You can listen to the interview here.








The UK Independence Party have been holding meetings at mosques and temples in an attempt to woo Asian voters and counter charges of racism, Manchester Wired reports.

The BBC Asian Network also found that the party had visited a further 15 Asian places of worship since their first meeting at a mosque in Leeds in June.

The party has been accused of hostility towards ethnic minorities because of its tough stance on immigration and controversial comments made by some of its members including Godfrey Bloom, who recently said international aid should not be going to “Bongo Bongo land”. Former UKIP party leader, Lord Pearson, has also advocated a ban on the niqab and burqa.

The most recent meeting organized by UKIP took place at the Sayyida Aminah mosque in Bradford.

Louise Bours, who is on UKIP’s national executive committee, told an assembly of Muslims, “We are the only British political party who actually proscribe membership to anybody who has belonged to any far-right organisation.”

“And if we found out if anybody belonged to any of those far-right organisations we would immediately revoke their membership.”

However, her claims run contrary to the number of UKIP candidates or councillors with a far-right past that have been uncovered in recent months.

Last week it was revealed that Robert Ray, a councillor in Thurrock, who played a leading role within the National Front during the 1970’s is still in situ.

BBC Asian Network interviewed a number of local Muslims who attended the meeting at the Sayyida Aminah mosque.

Dr Robert Ford, of Manchester University, also interviewed on the programme said UKIP’s true motive was to win over white voters – those who like its policies but are reluctant to back a party that has accusations of racism swirling around it.

“The racist charge carries a significant sting,” he said.

“There is a large population of voters, not just ethnic minority voters, who will rule out parties if they consider them to be agents of intolerance might be one way of putting it.

“So UKIP have a strong desire to make sure they aren’t seen in those terms.

“In the past they have been associated with the BNP [British National Party]. There have been cases of activists saying things that look pretty bad on this front. So you can understand it as an exercise in reassuring the electorate,” he added.

Local paper, the Plymouth Herald, reports on a headscarf wearing Muslim woman who was racially abused twice in the same week by a ‘racist yob’.

The woman, who is white British, was told to get back to her own country twice within the space of a few days by a racist thug.

Police said it appeared the woman’s headscarf attracted the attention of the man who verbally abused her.

The victim was walking with her son when the first incident occurred on September 5 at around 3pm. A second incident occurred days later, on September 8 at around 6pm.

The suspect is described as a white male in his late 40s or early 50s. He shouted a number of insults at the woman including telling her to ‘get back to your own country’.

Police fear there may be other victims who have not yet come forward as the area in which the incidents happened is near a mosque.

Police are appealing for anyone with any information to call 101 and quote crime reference EC/13/8782.

Similar attacks in Sweden recently led to non-Muslim women donning the hijab to show their solidarity with Muslim colleagues, friends and fellow citizens.

The European Network Against Racism published a number of country reports in March on ‘Racism and related discriminatory practices’ in Europe’. The reports illustrate the ‘bad times’ facing Muslims in Europe, particularly Muslim women.

Two far right racists inspired by Anders Breivik and who carried out a ‘campaign of hate’ against Islamic centres in south west England have been jailed, local paper the Plymouth Herald and BBC News report.

Inspired by the neo-Fascist ideology of Norwegian mass killer Anders Breivik, Tobias Ruth, 18, and John Roddy, 20, went on a six-month terror spree attacking mosques and Islamic centres.

The pair, who branded a cross on each other’s arms in an initiation ceremony into Breivik’s Order of the Knights Templar, set about spraying racist graffiti on numerous buildings and attacking mosques in and around Plymouth.

The two friends, both from Torquay, would travel around Torbay spraying the letters KT (Knights Templar) on buildings, cars and signs, including Torquay Islamic Centre.

The pair also sent poison pen letters to mosques or Islamic prayer centres in Plymouth and Brighton and were planning to send them to others all around Britain. All their messages read: “Leave this town today or there will be hell to pay”.

Exeter Crown Court heard Ruth and Roddy were drawn together by their mutual fascination with racist ideology. A copy of Breivik’s Manifesto and the Al Qaeda training manual were found on Roddy’s laptop by police. Officers also found a sweet tin full of cut out words and letters from magazines which were used to write their threatening messages.

Roddy, of Lymington Road, Torquay, and Ruth, of Morgan Avenue, Torquay, admitted conspiracy to cause criminal damage and to send malicious communications.

Roddy – the only one of the pair charged under the Terrorism Act – also admitted sending threatening messages to Islamic organisations.

Roddy, who is diagnosed as autistic and suffering from Asperger Syndrome was sentenced to 23 months in prison, suspended for two years, and ordered to receive supervision.

Ruth, admitted distributing threatening written material intending to stir up religious or sexual orientation hatred, and causing criminal damage to a mosque. He was jailed for 33 months.

In sentencing the pair, Judge Francis Gilbert QC said:

“At least one of the acts of criminal damage was motivated by racial hatred and that is a serious aggravating feature.

“The communications you sent were intended to cause the fear of racial violence and there was plainly a racial element to that offence.”

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has published a report entitled, “Legislating Fear: Islamophobia and its Impact in the United States”.

The report covers the period 2011-2012 and compares results with reports published in previous years. One of the main findings of the report concerns perceptions in the general population of American Muslims. According to the report the percentage of Americans who think Muslims are working to subvert the constitution has increased from 23% (Feb 2012) to 30% (Sept 2012).

The reports main findings are:

1) Overall, there has been a slight decline in Islamophobia in America. CAIR use a sliding scale from 1 to 10 to gauge Islamophobia with one representing an America free of Islamophobia and 10 being the worst possible situation for American Muslims. In 2012 the rating was 5.9 which is slightly down from the 2010 rating of 6.4

This slight decrease in the rating is down interviews in 2010 having been conducted at a time of heightened Islamophobia, specifically the controversy over Park 51, aka “the Ground Zero Mosque.” and the 2010 mid-term election which made it a campaign issue. Other events in 2010 include Pastor Terry Jones’ plan to burn Qurans in Florida.

2) The US-based Islamophobia network comprises of an inner and outer core of organisations. With the inner core are at least 37 groups whose primary function is to promote prejudice against or hatred of Islam and Muslims. There are a further 32 groups in the outer core who do not appear to include promoting prejudice against or hatred of Islam and Muslims but whose work regularly demonstrates or supports Islamophobic themes.

Prominent individuals amongst the 37 groups within the inner core are:

Pamela Geller who runs her Atlas Shrugs blog and Robert Spencer the director Jihad Watch both of whom were recently banned from entering the UK.

Other Islamophobes include Pastor Terry Jones and his Dove World Outreach Center which was at the centre of the Quran burning episode in 2010.

Another prominent group is the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) run by Yigal Carmon and the Middle East Forum run by Daniel Pipes.

3) The report found that this inner core of 37 groups is heavily interconnected and very well funded. Between 2008 and 2011 these groups had a combined revenue of nearly $120 million dollars.

An example of the interconnected nature of these groups and how their finances are spread can be seen by how Daniel Pipes, through his Middle East Forum, and how he finances other groups.

The Middle East Forum has given grants of $1,242,000 to Investigative Project of Islam, $450,000 to MEMRI, $75,000 to Endowment for Middle East Truth, $70,000 to the Committee for Accuracy on Middle East Reporting, $60,000 to the Centre of Security Policy, $10,000 to the American Forum for Democracy and $6,000 to the David Horowitz Freedom Center.

4) In the years 2011 and 2012 there were 78 bills or amendments designed to vilify Islamic religious practices which were introduced in the legislatures of 29 states and the U.S. Congress. Of these bills, 62 used terminology taken from ardent Islamophobe David Yerushalmi’s American Laws for American Courts (ALAC).

So far in 2013, thirty-seven anti-Islam bills were introduced in sixteen states and became law in North Carolina and in Oklahoma. Between 2011 and 2013, anti-Islam bills have been introduced in 32 states and the U.S. Congress with Seven states currently has anti-Islam laws on the books.

5) The report highlights an incident in late 2011, when it was discovered that the US military were using Islamophobic training material in classes for army personnel.

This bias reflected the anti-Muslim sentiments of the trainers serving law enforcement and military personnel.

The report found that:

“A frequent theme is that Islam itself is the problem: the trainers say that Islam is inherently violent and aggressive, making it the root cause of radicalization, and that therefore Muslims are not to be trusted. Among the many flaws with this argument is that it selectively picks the most extreme opinions in Islamic history and claims that two verses of the Quran, Islam’s holy book, known as “verses of the sword,” override all 113 verses stressing self-defense, peace, forgiveness, patience and tolerance.

“Another common theme is one of “civilizational conflict” between the west and Islam. This includes rhetoric and historical explanations of how and why the two “civilizations” are ideologically opposed and incompatible. These lessons will often suggest, either implicitly or explicitly, that conflict between Islam and the west is inevitable.

“A third theme is specifically attacking the character of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad. Often, the Prophet is portrayed as detestable and dangerous.”

Since this was uncovered multiple Federal government outlets have agreed to review their training on Islam and remove biased or inaccurate materials.

6) During 2011 and 2012 there have been 51 recorded anti-mosque acts. The report found that there was 29 in 2012 and 22 in 2011.

7) The report found that Islamophobia in the media and politics is still prevalent and acceptable to many people.

The report states:

‘Islamophobic rhetoric remains socially acceptable. Research released in 2011 found, “citizens are quite comfortable not only opposing [extending citizenship to legal Muslim immigrants], but also being public about that fact.”

‘A number of mainstream candidates for the Republican presidential nomination used Islamophobic rhetoric. Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) held a series of five anti-Muslim congressional hearings, which were subjected to broad spectrum push back but also enjoyed significant support. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) partnered with inner core leader Frank Gaffney to launch a campaign accusing Muslims in public service of infiltrating the government on behalf of the Muslim Brotherhood.

‘This last episode ended up being a very welcome example of public officials supporting Americans of the Islamic faith in a bipartisan manner.’

The report found that 72% of Republicans who trust Fox News believe that Islam is at odds with American values. And that 49% of Republicans who trust other news sources believe that Islam is at odds with American values.

The full report can be read here.

The Daily Mail, London Evening Standard and the Daily Telegraph all covered news of two Islamic schools in London that are ‘forcing’ girls as young as 11 to wear full-face veils.

The papers focus on two London schools, the Madani Girls School in Whitechapel, and the Ayesha Siddiqa Girls School in Southall, both of which enforce a conservative dress code according to the uniform policy stated on their respective websites.

The Daily Mail quotes the Madani Girls School website where their uniform policy is described as ‘strict’ and as supporting the ‘desired dress code of a Muslim female’.

The school’s website states: ‘The present uniform conforms to the Islamic Code of dressing and must be adhered to at all times both within the school and dismissal at the end of the day.’

With regard to the Ayesha Siddiqa Girls School, the paper acknowledges that ‘pupils wear a navy blue burka or a jilbab, which does not cover the face.’

The Daily Telegraph also quotes from the schools website, which says it is ‘not willing to compromise on any issues regarding uniform’.

The focus on uniform policy at Islamic schools and the ‘forcing’ of veils on young girls is interesting given the comments of the Prime Minister to the initial guidance issued by Birmingham Metropolitan College. Its decision to ban the niqab on college premises and the subsequent reversal of the ban has prompted copious media coverage on veiling.

A spokesman for Mr Cameron said, in relation to the ban imposed by Birmingham Metropolitan College: “We support schools in setting their own uniform guidelines.

“These are decisions that are rightly for schools to take. There is an important point here around head teachers and their leadership teams being able to take the decisions that are right for their schools and we support that.”

How then is the uniform policy of some Islamic schools news, if indeed “these are decisions that are rightly for schools to take”?

Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has also spoken on the subject saying:

“I don’t think it can be classed as any kind of uniform.

“I’m totally against any kind of compulsion in this matter. If a school is forcing children to wear the veil, that in my view is completely wrong.”

He added: “That is against my principles and it’s against the principles of liberty that London should stand for.”

But if parents who send their children to schools that follow such conservative views are exercising their right to educate their child in the school of their choice, how can that be considered incompatible with the ‘principles of liberty’?

Home Secretary, Theresa May, spoke in defence of a woman’s right to choose saying, “I start from the position that I don’t think Government should tell people, I don’t think the Government should tell women, what they should be wearing.

“I think it’s for women to make a choice about what clothes they wish to wear, if they wish to wear a veil that is for a woman to make a choice.

“There will be some circumstances in which it’s right for public bodies, for example at the border, at airport security, to say there is a practical necessity for asking somebody to remove a veil.

“I think it’s for public bodies like the Border Force officials, it’s for schools and colleges, and others like the judiciary, as we’ve recently seen, to make a judgment in relation to those cases as to whether it’s necessary to ask somebody to remove the veil.”

Meanwhile, the Daily Telegraph front page yesterday covered news of a policy review by health minister, Dan Poulter, to ensure dress codes in the health sector allow for face to face communication between patients and healthcare professionals.

Poulter told The Guardian, “I am writing to all healthcare regulators to ask them to look into this matter and to review their professional regulations, to ensure that there is always appropriate face-to-face contact between healthcare professionals and their patients.”

Few articles have been authored by women who wear face veils in the last week despite the great volume of coverage devoted to the issue.

Sahar Al Faifi writing in The Independent is author of one such article. She laments the lack of diverse views when it comes to debating the veil, in particular the absence of veiled Muslim women.

On the hypocrisy and short sightedness of the papers, politicians and political commentators Al Faifi writes: “The common impression that many people have about those that wear the niqab is that we are oppressed, uneducated, passive, kept behind closed doors and not integrated within British society. The terms used in the press often reflect this, as do some politicians statements.’

“Jeremy Browne MP is a case in point with his call for a national debate about whether the state should step in to “protect” young women from having the veil “imposed” on them. Sarah Wollaston MP finds the niqab “deeply offensive”. Enter the Prime Minister and commentators across the political spectrum ready to discuss us.”

On the disingenuous claim that veils are a ‘security’ concern, Al Faifi points out:

“Islam is not a monolithic religion and therefore Islamic scholars may differ in their jurisprudence but most agree that in particular cases, Muslim women are allowed to take off their veils – though each case should be dealt with individually. Muslim women including myself do not find this a problem.”

Criticising comparisons drawn with more illiberal countries, Al Faifi notes, “In Britain, public freedom is a part of the fabric of our society. Those public freedoms extend to religious freedoms that give us the right to practice and articulate our religious freedoms and rights. We cannot take this public freedom for granted for the sake of social scares, deep-seated psychological fears, ignorance and fear of the unknown.”

John Wight, in the Huffington Post, comments on the steady drip feed of negative coverage and the slow and systematic demonisation of minority groups that materialises as a result. He notes the “misconception [that] the Holocaust arrived out of thin air, rather than as the culmination of a prolonged campaign demonising its victims on the way to achieving their dehumanisation in the eyes of mainstream society, so that it became normalised and accepted.”

“Today in Britain we see evidence of the early stages of just such a campaign of demonisation being waged and reaching mainstream acceptance against the Muslim community.”

Wight believes that the demonisation of Muslims in the UK has been exacerbated further because ‘mainstream politicians and liberal commentators’ continually lament therefusal or reluctance of Muslims to integrate“.

“The normalisation of anti Muslim sentiment, the way it has achieved acceptance at the level of government, mainstream media, and in the street with the acceptance of overtly racist anti-Muslim groups such as the EDL, takes it to a new and alarming level,” he writes.

How poignant that Wight’s article, drawing parallels between the demonisation of Jews as a prelude to the Holocaust and the overwhelmingly negative coverage of Islam and Muslims in the British media, is published days after the Prime Minister, David Cameron, pledged to “do everything possible to make sure that the memory of the Holocaust is preserved from generation to generation.”

Local paper, West Briton, reports on stickers, posters and graffiti supportive of the English Defence League cropping up on the back of road signs in areas of Cornwall.

The paper reports that stickers stating ‘Home Rule’ have been found in Truro, St Agnes, Scorrier, Towan Cross, Carnon Downs and Lanner in the county.

A representative from EDL Cornwall Division in an interview with the paper refused to comment on the stickers but said: “Indeed we do have representatives for the Cornwall area. I’m afraid Islam is starting to creep its way into our beautiful county.

“Recent events have made people sit up and take notice. I cannot confirm or deny anything regarding stickers around the county.

“I would just say our supporters are ordinary hard working Cornish men and women that are not prepared to have this county ruined by any more mosques and people walking around like they are in third world countries.”

It is an interesting irony that incendiary stickers of this nature have cropped up before – the ‘shariah controlled zone’ ones that popped up in east London two years ago. The inflammatory stickers, attributed to fringe extremist group Islam4UK, appeared on lamp posts in the London Boroughs of Waltham Forest, Tower Hamlets and Newham