Islamophobia? There's no such thingThere’s something growing at a large pace in Britain these days, it’s the gap between the perceptions of what is happening, and what is actually happening - and this gap is in danger of being fully exploited by our political elites, and the leaders of Muslim organisations.
Nearly every day we are being told that Britain is caught in the grip of an ever-increasing anti-Muslim backlash. Many of the news reports on the subject have sourced their material from Muslim organisations. (1) What is really happening here is that people believe what they want to believe, rather than believing in what happens to be true.
The truth is Muslim leaders have exaggerated the threat of Islamophobia and the anti-Muslim backlash for their own political benefits, in order to strengthen their weak power base on the streets from east London to Bradford and Glasgow. Mainstream politicians are also keen to exploit the myth of Islamophobia, it’s a perfect opportunity for them to jump-up on their high moral horse and get the Muslim vote at the same time. The government aims to sooth the pain Muslims felt when New Labour betrayed them in Iraq by pledging to introduce new laws that will effectively ban religious hate speech. (2)
I’m not suggesting that harassment, ignorance or fear of Muslims and Islam do not exist. The problem is that the level of anti-Muslim abuse is being inflated strictly for narrow political ends. Islamophobia is fast becoming the shaping force behind what you can and can’t say about Islam. So the chance of being able to participate in a free, open and frank debate in the future looks extremely slim.
Islamophobia loses all sense of proportion in other ways, the minute you attach that label to someone. Two years ago, the racist Nick Griffin of the BNP was voted ‘Islamophobe of the Year’ at an award ceremony organised by the Islamic Human Rights Commission, that's fair enough – but so too was the liberal, anti-racist Polly Toynbee. As far as I’m concerned Toynbee is a secularist who has long campaigned for women’s rights, and is a critic of Islam. How can you compare her with a British neo-fascist? The truth is the IHRC is incapable of distinguishing between the two.
I might normally laugh at such awards were it not for the fact that the IHRC is no small concern. It does consultation work for the UN, and it’s verbally backed by Trevor Phillips and the CRE, and that’s not funny.
(1) Anti-Muslim backlash intensifies. IRR news. 2005
(2) Pledge to wipe out Islamophobia. BBC news. 2001
Illustration: BBC News 2004. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/3328277.stm