As anti-Muslim racism spreads and intensifies, here's ten reasons why we must stand up to Islamophobia and break the cycle of endless war
1Discrimination against Muslims in Britain is going from bad to worse. Unemployment among Muslims in Britain is 17%, against a national average of 8%, higher than for people of any other religion. The unemployment rate for Muslim women at 18% is four times the rate for Christian women. 80 per cent of British Muslims have experienced discrimination, up from 45 per cent in the late 1990s.
2This discrimination is associated with extreme levels of poverty. Over 40% of British Muslims of Pakistani or Bangladeshi ethnic origin live in poverty, compared to 14% of white people. Around 45% of ethnically-South Asian Muslim children in Britain are impoverished.
3Official discrimination and media stereotyping have helped drive a sharp increase in hate crime against Muslims. The rise has accelerated in the last few years. Academic research shows that “assailants of Muslims are invariably motivated by a negative view of Muslims they have acquired from either mainstream or extremist nationalist reports or commentaries in the media”.
4Islamophobia is rampant across Europe. In France discrimination against Muslims is worse than in Britain. Approximately 60% of the prison population in France are Muslims. Despite its claims to secularism, hundreds of Catholic churches in France are funded by the state. Hundreds of Catholic and many Jewish private schools also receive state funding. When Muslim organisations have asked for similar arrangements, they have been refused.
5The rise in hate crime is closely linked to the 'war on terror' and the associated rhetoric. Research shows “the major motivating factor for violence against Muslims is a negative and false belief that Muslims pose a security or terrorist threat.”
6In the last 25 years Britain and other Western powers have conducted invasions and major military interventions against a series of Muslim countries from Afghanistan and Iraq to Libya, Pakistan, Somalia, Sudan, Mali and Syria. The destruction has been immense. One recent study estimates that in Iraq alone from 1991 to 2007, the total civilian death toll “as a direct and indirect consequence of Anglo-American invasions, socio-economic deprivation, infrastructure destruction, and occupation amounts to approximately 3 million.”
7The war is coming home. Some of the methods of surveillance and infiltration used in foreign wars are being applied to domestic Muslim communities. As well as direct surveillance and harassment by the security services, schools, colleges, youth and community services in Britain are expected to gather intelligence about the young people they work with. Youth workers are pressured to provide information about things like religious literalism or anger at British foreign policy. As of 2010, 290 children under 16 had been reported to the police and their lives investigated by police counter-terrorist units.
8In the UK, more than a thousand Muslims have been detained without charge under anti-terror laws, out of which only a handful have been convicted of terrorist offences. At the peak of the 'extraordinary rendition' programme, more than 100,000 Muslim men worldwide were being detained without charges, “in secretive American-run jails and interrogation centres similar to the notorious Abu Ghraib Prison”, under conditions which violate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Geneva Conventions on the Treatment of Prisoners, and UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners.
9In Britain stop and searches under anti terrorism legislation leapt more than twenty times from a total of 10,200 in 2001/2 to 210,000 in 2008/9. This harassment did not produce a single conviction in eight years.
10Anti-Muslim racism is spreading and intensifying. Islamophobic measures and rhetoric have ramped up as the 'war on terror' has dragged on and the situation in the Middle East deteriorated. To break this cycle it is essential not just to recognise these facts, but to stand up against Islamophobia and to step up the campaign against the disastrous foreign wars.
Chris Nineham is a founder member of Stop the War and Counterfire, speaking regularly around the country on behalf of both. He is author of The People Versus Tony Blair and Capitalism and Class Consciousness: the ideas of Georg Lukacs.
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