Are British Muslims “Attention Seekers”?

By Majed Iqbal- A report issued this month has found eye-opening evidences that Muslims living in Britain suffer disproportionately more from discrimination, racial abuse and racial attacks than any other faith group, and the more openly devout they are, the more likely they are to experience harassment and abuse.

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The Study titled “Muslims under siege- Alienating Vulnerable Communities” was used as part of the Channel 4 Dispatches program aired this month which went out actively to prove that Islam and Muslims are used as political tools for Politicians, Propaganda stories by press and consequently left open to ridicule.

Report commissioners Peter Oborne and James Jones in their Report Introduction write “The seed for this pamphlet was planted in October 2006 when Jack Straw and other cabinet ministers raised the issue of Muslim women wearing the veil. It soon became clear that this was more than a random rumination from a member of the government. Rather Labour appeared to have made the extraordinary decision to try to identify with a general mood of resentment and anxiety about the presence of Muslim communities in this country and to intervene in the politics of religious identity”.

The report, coupled with the broadcast of the Dispatches program severely dented the claims meted out by politicians, thinkers and writers alike that Muslims are asking for some form of “special treatment”. The report was able to highlight and prove how such views are a distortion of reality and presented the fabricated stories found in newspapers which tried to build such a case.

Stories run had headlines “Now the PC brigade bans piggy banks in case they offend Muslims”, “Muslim sickos’ Maddie kidnap Shock”, “Get off my bus I need to pray”, “Nurses Told to Turn Muslims’ Beds to Mecca”, “Agenda of hate in UK mosques” and many more.

The Report “Muslims under siege” was able to break the stereotypes that Islamophobia, described as “an outlook or world-view involving an unfounded dread and dislike of Muslims, which results in practices of exclusion and discrimination” was not restricted to tabloid journalism. Reputable British newspapers, Journals and Writers have been as vicious in views than their Tabloid counter-parts.

The report referred to this as when it mentioned “It will demonstrate how it is permissible to invidiously single out Muslims in newspaper headlines in a way that would be unthinkable in any other minority, except perhaps paedophiles.”

“Not letting them travel.Deportation – further down the road. Curtailing of freedoms. Strip-searching people who look like they’re from the Middle East or from Pakistan. Discriminatory stuff, until it hurts the whole community and they start getting tough with their children.” were the written views of Martin Amis, one of Britain’s best known novelists describing his feelings about the Muslim community.

Simultaneously, another report which was carried out by Cardiff university school of Journalism titled “The Representation of British Muslims in the National Print News Media 2000-2008″ was issued and drew similar conclusions to the First Report.

It found that coverage of British Muslims has increased significantly since 2000 where 36% of the stories were related to Terrorism. This however changed for 2008, where stories began focusing on religious and cultural differences between Islam and British culture or the West in general (22% of stories overall in the study) or Islamic extremism (11% overall).

Such stories have spawned from the growing debate on Muslim values compared to British Culture and its values, outward religious manifestations like the Hijab and Niqab, increasing number of Mosques being built, growing trend of Islamic schools, accommodation of Shariah for personal matters like marriage and divorce and the Muslim community’s un-equivocal position of concern on home grown foreign policies related to Iraq, Afghanistan and other parts of the Muslim World.

Both reports leave no illusions or ambiguities that the Muslim community is subject to much abuse and discrimination and while Politicians, Government and Media banter on about integration and community cohesion, it is difficult to see how just that my take place in the present climate.

Are the Muslim Community in Britain just attention seekers or is he story far beyond this?


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