Owen Jones: Islamophobia - for Muslims, read Jews. And be shocked

Imagine our alarm if nearly half the UK population said they believed that 'there are too many Jews'

Share

To be a prominent Muslim means suffering a daily diet of bigotry and even outright hatred. This week, Mehdi Hasan – who, other than my colleague Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, is Britain's only prominent Muslim journalist – wrote of how, every day, he is attacked as a "jihadist" and a "terrorist". He has been described as a "dangerous Muslim shithead", a "moderate cockroach", and worse. The message from his critics is clear: Muslims have no legitimate place in public life.

Mehdi Hasan was right to speak out, but it must not be left to Muslims alone to take on this bigotry. A tide of Islamophobia has swept Europe for many years, and – shamefully – all too few have taken a stand. Even many who regard themselves as "progressives" have either remained silent or even indulged anti-Muslim prejudice. It's time for Muslims and non-Muslims alike to join forces against the most widespread – and most acceptable – form of bigotry of our times.

Think I'm exaggerating? Consider that the far-right's main target of choice is no longer Jews or black people: it's Muslims. The BNP portrays itself as a crusade against the "Islamification" of Britain; in the 2010 election, it launched a "Campaign Against Islam". Its leader, Nick Griffin, describes Islam as "wicked" and a "cancer", and has blamed Muslims for problems such as drugs and rape. The English Defence League stages frequent – and often intimidating – street rallies protesting against Muslims.

But anti-Muslim prejudice isn't simply confined to the far-right fringes. I attended a Stockport sixth form with a large Muslim student population. The reality of their lives is all but airbrushed out of existence. When they appear at all, it's generally as fanatics, extremists or a community somehow "harbouring" dangerous extremists. (When do Britain's whites face the absurdity of being called on to crack down on far-right fanatics supposedly in their ranks?) One study took a selection of newspapers in a single week: 91 per cent of reports featuring Muslims were negative.

One of my Muslim fellow students was Dr Leon Moosavi, fast becoming a national authority on Islamophobia. He battles against the widespread denial that anti-Muslim prejudice is a problem. But consider that, in one poll conducted by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, 45 per cent of Britons agreed that "there are too many Muslims" in Britain. Imagine if nearly half the population admitted to believing that "there are too many Jews" in Britain: how loud would our alarm be?

Of course, it is not just a British problem: the poison of Islamophobia has infected Europe's political mainstream. According to a Pew Research Center survey, nearly six out of 10 Europeans believe that Muslims were "fanatical", and half believed they were "violent". As here, the European far-right aims fire at Muslims above all other groups. In the Netherlands, an anti-Muslim party led by Geert Wilders is the third largest in parliament. Wilders compares the Koran to Mein Kampf, calls Islam a "Trojan Horse" in Europe and demands that the country's 850,000 Muslims be paid to leave the country. Wilders doesn't languish on the fringes: the current Dutch cabinet depended for two years on his party's support.

Or take sleepy Switzerland, where the Swiss People's Party (SVP) is the biggest party in the country's Federal Assembly. The SVP won a referendum on the banning of minarets, which the party's general secretary described as "symbols of Islamic power". During the vote, Geneva's mosque was repeatedly vandalised. Farhad Afshar, the president of the Coordination of Islamic Organisations, had no doubt what signal was sent by this vote: "that Muslims do not feel accepted as a religious community". But it gets even darker than that. In June, the Zurich-based SVP politician Alexander Müller was forced to stand down after tweeting: "Maybe we need another Kristallnacht… this time for mosques." The parallels with anti-Semitism could not be more overt.

In France – where recently 42 per cent polled for Le Monde believed that the presence of Muslims was a "threat" to their national identity – a record number voted for the anti-Muslim National Front in April's presidential elections. Denmark's third largest party is the People's Party, which rails against "Islamisation" and demands the end of all non-Western immigration. The anti-Muslim Vlaams Belang flourishes in Flemish Belgium. But those who take a stand against Islamophobia are often demanded to qualify it with a condemnation of extremism. When is this ever asked of other stands against prejudice? When we condemn anti-Semitic hate, must we criticise repressive Israeli policies in the same breath? It would be absurd – they are completely separate issues, and indeed millions of Jews across the world oppose the actions of Israel's government.

Anti-Muslim hate is a European pandemic. I'm proud to stand with Mehdi Hasan and other Muslims facing Islamophobia. But – I implore, I beg fellow non-Muslims – stand with them too, before this hatred spirals further out of control.

twitter.com/@OwenJones84

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’  

Children's TV shows like Grange Hill used to connect us to the real world

Grace Dent
An Indian bookseller waits for customers at a roadside stall on World Book and Copyright Day in Mumbai  

Novel translation lets us know what is really happening in the world

Boyd Tonkin
Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine