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.
Dr. Taj Hargey, “a clean-shaven imam from Oxford”, who describes himself as a “thorn in the side of the Muslim hierarchy”, has won a libel claim against a conservative Muslim newspaper. The Muslim News published an article that claimed he belonged to the Ahmadiyya sect which many in his faith believe is heretical.
Dr. Hargey has made many enemies because of his liberal brand of Islam, which he preaches from a small assembly hall. Unlike most British imams who insist on segregation during Friday prayers, Dr. Hargey allows men and women to pray in the same room. He believes Muslims should not feel compelled to grow beards or wear a veil and last November his mosque became the first in Britain to allow female Islamic scholar Amina Wadud to lead Friday prayers.
After winning the lawsuit Dr. Hargey said: “This is a watershed moment in the struggle between liberal Muslims in the UK and the extremist views … [of] a foreign-educated clergy. Progressives like me are described as heretics in order to ruin our credibility. It’s a form of Muslim McCarthyism that is used to root out anyone who dares question these unenlightened, tribal and foreign forms of Islam.”
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.
Twenty two members of the Muslim community were named in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for their contribution to society: two CBEs, seven OBEs, 11 MBEs and two overseas & military MBEs. Amongst the four women and 18 men are an artist, barrister, doctor, professor and translator. The number of Muslims awarded for their work is considerably higher than last year when only seven were honoured. Other members minority faith groups have also been included, with 14 members of the Hindu and Sikh faiths (2 OBEs, 11 MBEs, 1 Diplomatic Overseas List MBE) and 22 members of the British Jewish community being awarded two knighthoods, seven CBEs, seven OBEs and six MBEs. Chair of the British Muslim Forum, Dr Khurshid Ahmed, is to be made a CBE for his services to community relations in Birmingham and the Black Country. Dr Ahmed served as Chair of the audit committee, CRE envoy to the Muslim community and as Assistant Chief Executive at Birmingham City Council from 1984 to 1999. He is currently the Chair of the Dudley Community Partnership. He told The Muslim News he felt humbled by the award…it is for the hard work and dedication of all my staff. Mohammed Afzal Khan is to be a CBE for his service to Manchester’s community and interfaith relations. He told The Muslim News, I enjoy serving the public and look forward to carry on serving the public for many years to come. Khan worked as a youth worker before serving as a police constable with Greater Manchester Police. He began his legal career as a solicitor and is now a senior partner at a law firm. Khan has acted as lead member for Race Equality and has been involved in interfaith work for 20 years. Elham Asaad Buaras reports.
This month, The Muslim News successfully launched the first ever series of dialogues between British political leaders and British Muslims. The first meeting, organized jointly with Sadiq Khan, MP, Minister in HM Government Whips Department, was held in the House of Commons on October 18. Ahmed J Versi
Liberal Democrats will have for the first time a Muslim, and that a woman, in the Parliament, reports The Muslim News. Mrs Kishwer Falkner, 49, was selected among 46 new working peers appointed today to the House of Lords. The list, approved by Prime Minister, Tony Blair, included no Muslims selected for peerages by either the Labour Party or the Conservatives. None of the seven new independents are Muslim. Falkner said that she was “honoured and delighted to take up this new role”. “I see this as a recognition of the contribution that so many immigrants make to life in Britain. I look forward to be a voice for diversity in the House of Lords,” she told The Muslim News.