According to editor of The Muslim News Ahmed Versi, Islamophobia in Britain is not given the necessary amount of attention. He claims that Islamophobic attacks in Britain will continue to rise until there is a wholesale change in attitudes, including new legislation against religious hatred.
“It will get worse unless something serious is done to curb this,” warned Versi, who has been reporting incidents of attacks and abuse against Muslims for more than 20 years and presented many papers at conferences on the issue. “Lack of legislation is the problem – we have only small number of cases of racism and anti-Semitism because they are protected by laws and are outlawed,” he said.
Recent incidents included arson attacks on mosques and other Islamic institutions such as charities. Individuals have also been harassed or violated, students on campus for example, particularly veiled women, who had their head scarves or face veils removed by attackers. Verbal abuse labeled Muslims as “Osama bin Ladin” or “Terrorists” and extended to insults such as “You Paki go home”.
Despite the scale of attacks and abuse, there are very few reports on the issue by national media.
Nicolas Sarkozy’s speech before the Senate, in which he announced the ban of the burka in France, has stirred some emotion and discussion in Britain, where such law is far from being thought of. In her article Cassandra Jardine compares the two countries, pointing to the right to individual and religious expression in Britain.
Ahmed Versi, editor of the Muslim News, believes the way forward is through tolerance and understanding, not legislation — and is glad he lives in Britain for that reason. “Britain is the best country in Europe for Muslims. We complain, but we are freer here, and we have more dialogue with government. In France, Muslim organisations are not representative; here they are independent. In France, Muslims live in ghettos and have double the unemployment rate of the rest of the population. Many French women come to university in the UK because they want to study and wear the headscarf which in France they cannot.”
The article also quotes those who would welcome the burka-ban, not least some members of the Muslim community. “The French president should be applauded for initiating this debate,” Dr Taj Hargey of the Muslim Educational Centre of Oxford said. Dr Hargey describes the growing belief that Muslim women should cover their head, face and hands as “doctrinaire brain-washing”. Dr Usama Hasan, a reformist London Imam, also has “some sympathy” with Sarkozy: he too does not think it is necessary for women to wear the burka.
Over 800 people celebrated the ninth Annual The Muslim News Awards for Excellence — Britain’s longest standing Muslim awards event — Monday at London’s Grosvenor House. The coveted award ceremony recognised the very best of Muslim contribution to British society.
The special Judges award went to Birmingham-based graffiti artist Mohammed Ali. Other awards were distributed for all kinds of social commitment, including “fair, accurate and balanced reporting on an issue involving Muslims”, health, sports, arts, enterprise, good citizenship or community development. Winners were musician and oud-player Ahmed Mukhtar, Reverend Gilleasbuig MacMillan of Edinburgh, the Black and Asian Service in Alcohol and Narcotics (BASIAN) and 15-year-old Imran Sidat, who competes for England in freestyle karate and kickboxing, among many others.
Home Secretary Jacqui Smith was present at the ceremony, as were Communities Secretary Hazel Blears, Shadow Justice Secretary Dominic Grieve and Liberal Democrats Leader Nick Clegg, along with an audience of 800 invitees. The editor of the Muslim News, Ahmed Versi was pleased with the ceremony and believes the awards show how much British Muslims can contribute to the common good.