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A Much Maligned group?
Ten years ago, during a parents’ evening at a secondary school, I spoke to a German-speaking Muslim couple of one of my pupils. Their English wasn’t yet good but with my limited German, we were able to converse. They had recently come here from Germany where they experienced prejudice and found the English were far friendlier.
This is by no means isolated. According to one study, taken as recently as 2009, Muslims in Europe tend to move to Britain because: “Latent Islamophobia in Europe means that many of those who move to the continent eventually end up in Britain because it is seen as more tolerant.”
Furthermore, another report found that British Muslims were the most patriotic with over three-quarters identifying themselves as British. In general, Britons have been regarded as among the most tolerant in the world.
So what happened?
Islamophobia—that is, hatred towards a specific group, as opposed to ethnic groups as a whole, has risen. According to some statistics, by 200 percent since 2015, on the streets and in social networks. The term "Islamophobia" has been indiscriminately used to describe criticism of hate preachers, acts of terrorism, excerpts from the Koran, or groups like ISIS and Boko Haram. Perhaps a better term would be "Muslimophobia," which allows critical debate and criticism of an aspect of Islam but not abuse of people for their religion.
Or why have anything? Surely in a secular society, any forms of discrimination to any minority should be frowned upon.
It’s only recently increased and coincides with the time when the Blair government decided to open UK’s borders to mass migration. In an interview, Tony Blair admitted they did not know how many came, legally or otherwise.
They came from everywhere. I won’t talk about the European Union because that’s a separate issue and keep this to parts of the world where Allah is worshipped as this is about Islamophobia.
Many are decent people, like those parents from Germany. Many others came from poorer and remoter places, poor places where conditions and the attitudes that go with them are medieval. When a Pakistani was asked to comment on the grooming gangs in places like Rotherham and Rochdale, he described them as "village people" who would not blend in well in a Pakistani city, let alone a British one.
Yet Tony Blair let them in. His close colleague, Peter Mandelson, even boasted they "sent out search parties for them!" without knowing how many came or other considerations like housing, schools, or other public services. This sudden influx is likely to cause strains, as did the Windrush generation from the West Indies, yet we don’t hear much about prejudice towards Afro-Caribbeans. When they came, they were encouraged and wanted to assimilate.
Instead, when Muslims came, they were herded into ghettoes where no efforts were made to assimilate into the mainstream. Many did not even have to learn English inside their communities and in them, their customs thrived and were left to fester.
Such lovely examples of diversity, like Female Genital Mutilation, illegal since 1986, while not a single prosecution has been brought before the courts in spite of April 2016 and March 2017, there were 9,179 reported cases. Also arranged marriages and so-called honour killings proliferate and the authorities, school police, social services, politicians, councillors, and media looked the other way and invented "Islamophobia" to discourage anyone showing concern when girls go missing.
The grooming and raping of vulnerable girls in towns like Rotherham, Rochdale, and elsewhere was allowed to go on unhindered. Many of the perpetrators claimed it was "part of their culture" as a defence. Some judges even listened.
In addition came terrorism, as sparked off by Tony Blair and George W Bush’s adventure into Iraq and Afghanistan in search of WMDs. Home-grown terrorist from areas of high Muslim concentration blew up buses and tube trains here or went to join ISIS and return, with their new skills—some four hundred—without the government having a clue about them.
Anyone complaining and we have that "I" word to shut them up and hate laws, which tend to benefit those who get most offended as this law is subjective by its very nature and therefore fuels the very resentment they were designed to quell. Brits are a strange people; being accused of racism is considered as heinous a crime as throwing acid in someone’s face.
Then there are the likes of MPs like David Lammy and Diane Abbott. Columnist Owen Jones and Yasmin Alibhai-Brown will make liberal use of words like racism and Islamophobia, evoking the terrible white boogieman and spread alarm about the growth of the "far right."
Evidence of this growing far-right menace is obviously there in the ballot box where they have consistently failed to save their deposits. It might also be worth mentioning that these same white racist boogiemen offered Alibhai-Brown a home and opportunities when Idi Amin threw her out of Uganda in 1973.
So Boris Johnson is Islamophobic for making a joke about burkas, even when only a tiny minority of Muslims wear them—let’s face it, they are creepy. Sadiq Khan is considered a poor mayor who has allowed crime to soar under his watch. A gimp of him was recently flown over Westminster in protest of his performance. It was denounced as Islamophobic because he is a Muslim.
I am not claiming crimes against Muslims, whether they are physical assaults or verbal ones, are not on the rise. As a former teacher in inner-city schools, I am aware of growing hostility towards Muslim children. But why are Muslims targeted and why only recently? I always thought prejudice was more ingrained. Perhaps, as one American comedian opined, we’re not very good at this racism thing.
It doesn’t mean we’re anything special. Anywhere in the world, racism begins with rulers. Like the Czar’s Jewish pogroms, it takes the serf’s minds off the notion they have been ruled very badly. It was the same in Rwanda and Bosnia, where Serbs and Croats intent on carving out portions of broken Yugoslavia gave us "ethnic cleansing."
So what about Britain? It would be very cynical to say Blair’s party, seeing the erosion of their traditional core vote, seeks to make up the shortfall. Or that corporations no longer have to move factories to where labour is cheap and could save themselves some bucks if the labour simply came to where they already are.
Meanwhile, governments go on using "I" word and terms like "far-right," when dealing with the symptoms without addressing the cause. When a voter told the then prime minister, Gordon Brown, about the problems her grandchildren faced finding jobs and homes, he dismissed her as a "bigoted woman."
Do people have a right to be angry? I think yes. They see themselves getting poorer, their country going to the dogs, and one community, rightly or wrongly, getting preferential treatment and their political leaders no longer caring.
But they’re wrong to pick on the wrong target. Maybe we should put the blame where it belongs and say it’s time we said goodbye to pogroms and instead storm the Winter Palace.