The rising tide of Islamophobia in Britain

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The Independent Online

Life for Britain's 1.6 million Muslims has never been easy. For decades they have struggled in the face of discrimination. But since 11 September 2001, things have become even worse. A report by the Commission on British Muslims yesterday revealed just how poorly they are treated in this country.

Life for Britain's 1.6 million Muslims has never been easy. For decades they have struggled in the face of discrimination. But since 11 September 2001, things have become even worse. A report by the Commission on British Muslims yesterday revealed just how poorly they are treated in this country.

There has been an upsurge in attacks on Muslims and their places of worship. The police have been ineffective in preventing such assaults. They seem more concerned with harassing young Muslims under new stop-and-search powers granted by the Terrorism Act. There has been little evidence that such heavy-handed tactics achieve anything other than alienating the Muslim community.

According to the Commission's report, the resentment felt by many young Muslim men could prove a time-bomb under British society. And the Government's advisers feel the same. Leaked documents from Sir Andrew Turnbull, the Cabinet Secretary, which emerged last weekend, talk of the need to win the "hearts and minds" of Muslim youths. They are both right. The most effective way of preventing young Muslims being sucked into extremism is to make them feel like valued members of society. This does not mean treating them all like potential terrorists.

The manner in which the police have publicised raids has been questionable. They are quick to claim credit for foiling terror attacks, but when all the suspects are released without charge, as were a group of Kurds arrested in Manchester in April, they seem to have little interest in setting the record straight. This attitude is mirrored in the sensationalist press. Thus, the public is given the false impression that there is an army of Muslim terrorists plotting outrages on British soil.

Despite the efforts of organisations such as the Muslim Council of Britain, the message is not getting across that, while Osama bin Laden and his acolytes may consider themselves devout Muslims, there is nothing Islamic about the carnage they have caused. Britain's Muslims know this to be true, and it is high time everyone else accepted it too.

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