The rise of Islamophobia? Yeah right, whatever.Rarely, has a month gone by, were I'm not being constantly told, that Britain is somehow caught in the grip of an ever-increasing Islamophobic backlash. This time, it's the UK's highest-ranking Asian police officer, Assistant Commissioner Tarique Ghaffur, who insists that anti-terror laws have 'indirectly discriminated against Muslims' in Britain. Furthermore, the commissioner is adamant that the 'cumulative effect of Islamophobia, both internationally and nationally, linked to social exclusion, has created a generation of angry young people who are vulnerable to exploitation'.
The commissioner paid particular attention to current police powers to stop-and-search, in the authorities desperate bid to fight against international terrorism. Massoud Shadjareh, chairman of the Islamic Human Rights Commission, supported the commissioners statement, but, went much further and added that it's 'been clear for a very long time that there is institutional Islamophobia in the implementation of stop-and-search'. Everybody, it seems, are totally convinced that Muslims in the UK face systematic, institutionalised discrimination and harassment from the authorities, like never before.
However, there are some serious flaws with the notion of 'Islamophobia', firstly, the concept seems to be utterly meaningless - and secondly, the fact's about 'Islamophobia' don’t quite fit what is actually happening on the ground. There’s a profound gap between what is perceived to be true, and what actually happens to be true. The clearest example of this is the issue of apparent police harassment of the Muslim community. If 'institutional Islamophobia' was as endemic in the British police force as we're led to believe - then why has the number of Asians being stopped and search actually fallen in the past 4 years? Wouldn't we at least expect the figures of Asians being stopped, during an upsurge in Islamophobia, to have risen?
According to the lastest police figures, Asians do not disproportionately make up the numbers of people stopped and searched in the UK. Indeed, the lastest figures confirm that you are still '6 times' more likely to be stopped and searched if you're black, rather than Asian. In fact, Asians are only '1.8' times more likely to have been stopped during 2003/4, and only '1.9' times the year before that. But, what I really want to know is, why has nobody questioned the claim that Asians are being disproportionately harassed and searched by the police? The notion of 'Islamophobia' has become so uncritically accepted that very few people have even bothered to see if its claims are even true or not.
If there was such a thing as 'Institutional Islamophobia', it would surely show up in the police stop-and-search figures - but they don't. The truth is, the real victims of draconian police stop-and-search practices are black people. Not that the proponents of 'Institutional Islamophobia' would give a flying monkey about things like that it seems. What really matters to them is over-egging the fact that British Muslims have never had it so bad. However, the more that ‘Islamophobia’ is exaggerated by Muslim leaders, the more the Muslim community believe they are under constant attack. It’s not Islamophobia that’s blighting the lives of Muslims, it’s the perception of Islamophobia that’s doing all the damage, fostering a kind of siege mentality amoungst many in the Muslim community.
Picture: Islamophobia Demonstration. Trafalgar Square. Oct 2005