kenan
malik
.com
broadcast

              are muslims hated?

                         30 minutes, channel 4, 8 january 2005

Kenan Malik
voiceover

watching archive
news footage of
attack on the
World Trade Centre

9/11. For the West the attack on New York's World Trade Centre conjured up a terrifying new enemy: Islamic fundamentalism. For Muslims it appeared to open the floodgates to a new wave of hatred and discrimination. Suddenly, it seemed, racists had licence to attack them, police to harass them, politicians and journalists to revile their religion.

   

Iqbal Sacranie
Muslim Council of Britain

Since 9/11 there is ample evidence of evil in terms of attacks on Muslims purely because of the faith they belong to.

   

Kenan Malik
voiceover




Not just Muslim leaders, but everyone from anti-racist activists to government ministers want to convince us that Britain is in the grip of Islamophobia - an irrational hatred of Islam. But does Islamophobia really exist? Or is the hatred and abuse of Muslims being exaggerated to suit politicians' needs and silence the critics of Islam?

   

Yasmin Alibhai Brown

I've heard powerful Muslims say this, they want the same power as the Jewish Board of Deputies. 'Look how they've used anti-Semitism we can use Islamophobia.' I've heard them say this.

   

30 Minutes titles

30 Minutes

Are Muslims Hated?

   

Kenan Malik
piece to camera

I'm Kenan Malik. These days I'm a writer and an unbeliever. And this is Brick Lane where I spent much of my youth fighting racists. I'm the kind of person who ought to rage against Islamophobia. But I don't. I believe that discrimination against Muslims isn't as great as is made out. But criticism of Islam should be greater.

   

Kenan Malik
voiceover


in Brick Lane and
Altab Ali Park

archive footage of
Altab Ali march


still of Kenan Malik
on anti-racist demo
1985

When I was growing up racism was vicious, visceral and often fatal. This park at the end of Brick Lane is named after Altab Ali, a Bengali man who was stabbed to death by racists in 1978. His was one of 8 racist murders that year. 10,000 Bengalis marched from Whitechapel to Whitehall in protest.

Can it really be that we've now returned to the bad old days of the 70s and 80s, but this time with people victimised because of their faith rather than their skin colour? 20 years ago we'd never heard of Islamophobia. Now everyone's talking about it.

   

First young man

I think Britain is Islamophobic, not perhaps all the British people but I think it’s pushed by the establishment.

Second young man

Definitely you'd say it's an Islamophobic government and system.

Young woman

The situation is getting worse for the Muslims.

   

Kenan Malik
voiceover

So when was Islamophobia born? The first major report on the subject was written in 1997 by veteran anti-racist Dr Richard Stone. What does it mean to him?

   

Richard Stone

Islamophobia is an unreasonable and large unfounded hate or fear of people who have a Muslim background and it applies to people who are perceived to be Muslim. Colour prejudice racism is still as dangerous and divisive as it always was. But in my feeling, from what I've heard and what I've seen, as far as I'm concerned anti-Muslim prejudice has now joined it as an equally powerful negative divisive force in this country.

   

Kenan Malik
voiceover

It's a frightening thought. But is it true? If Islamophobia were the new racism, you'd expect to find evidence of an increase in religiously-motivated physical assaults on Muslims. Such was the concern after 9/11 that even the EU commissioned a special report. The author was Birmingham University's Chris Allen.

   

Kenan Malik
interview with
Chris Allen

What evidence is there of a general climate of virulent and systematic attacks on Muslims?

   

Chris Allen
University of
Birmingham

When you're looking at evidence, hard evidence it's very difficult to find the actual data and statistics to actually prove this. It's not to say that it's not happening, but actually regarding the monitoring of these types of attacks it is very difficult to find.

   

Kenan Malik
voiceover

The EU report did find cases of mosques being vandalised and Muslims being insulted and threatened. But, in the four months after 9/11, there were only around a dozen serious physical assaults on British Muslims.

   

Kenan Malik
interview with
Chris Allen

It doesn't speak of a generalised climate of physical attacks on Muslims, of Islamophobia in that sense does it?

   

Chris Allen


You're quite right, when it comes to the top level of virulent attacks there really was not the statistical evidence to actually categorically say yes these were. What we found was much more a change in attitudes, a change in opinions. A change in the way people understood Muslims.

   

Kenan Malik
voiceover

More up-to-date statistics confirm this. For instance, the most recent annual figures available show just eight convictions for religiously aggravated incidents. But the Muslim press paints a different picture.

   

Ahmed Versi
editor, Muslim News

After September 11th we had the largest number of attacks on Muslims.

   

Kenan Malik
interview with
Ahmed Versi

In figures, what would you say it was, in actual numbers?

   

Ahmed Versi

Unfortunately there are no statistics available but I believe it was hundreds.

   

Kenan Malik

When you look at the actual evidence for instance the EU report found about a dozen cases of serious physical assault.

   

Ahmed Versi

The EU did not monitor the attacks after September 11th, they relied on published material. You have to understand that a lot of attacks that take place are not reported to the police, because the Muslim community take it as quite normal in their lives to be attacked and even if they do take these cases to the Police they might not register these as Islamophobic attacks, they might register them as racist attacks.

   

Kenan Malik
voiceover

in Whitechapel Library
still photos of
Kenan Malik
confronting police

But even if such attacks are not being reported to the police, you'd expect Muslim organisations to know about them. The Islamic Human Rights Commission, however, monitored just 344 Islamophobic attacks in the 12 months following 9/11 - most of which were minor incidents like shoving or spitting. That's 344 too many - but it's hardly a climate of uncontrolled hostility towards Muslims.

Certainly, it's nothing like what I remember from the 80s. Then there was no doubt what Asians were up against. In the ten years after Altab Ali was killed in 1978, there were 49 racially motivated murders. 1985 was known as the year of the fires because of the huge number of arson attacks on Asian homes. The National Front was a constant menace on the streets.

   

Kenan Malik
voiceover

archive footage of
the National Front
and police brutality
against Asians

That's what I'd call a climate of uncontrolled hostility. And what made it worse was that you were as likely to get a beating from the police as from the skinheads. You rarely see scenes like this nowadays. Yet, Muslims still perceive themselves as constantly harassed by the police.

   

Archive footage
of ITN News
with Katie Derham

The number of Asians being stopped and searched has increased by 300 per cent. Muslim leaders say it's Islamophobic.

   

Kenan Malik
voiceover

When Home Office figures released last July revealed a huge increase in the stop and search of Asians under the government's anti-terror laws, journalists, Muslim leaders and even the Home office, all shouted 'Islamophobia'.

   

Kenan Malik
interview with
Iqbal Sacranie

Would you say that there's a fear within the Muslim community that any one of them could be a target for police stop and search?

   

Iqbal Sacranie
Muslim Council of Britain

I think there is real concern that is being felt in the community at the moment the statistics are very clear on that. 95 to 98 per cent of those people who have been stopped and searched or those who have been you know visited in terms of the anti-terror laws are Muslim, and that perception is felt in community as though it's the Muslim community that's being targeted, and are the victims.

   

Kenan Malik
voiceover

But it's a perception at odds with the facts. What the Home Office figures actually showed was that Asians comprise just 15 per centof those stopped and searched under the anti-terror laws. And while a 300 per cent increase in the numbers stopped and searched gives the impression of constant harassment, the actual numbers were tiny - just 3000 Asians out of a population of more than 2 million. And not all of them are Muslim.

   

Kenan Malik

interview with
Iqbal Sacranie

There are around 21,000 people stopped in the past year under the Terrorism Act 2000. About 3000 of them were Asian, so less that 3000 would be Muslim. So it is not true that the majority of those stopped and searched under the Terrorism Act were Muslim.

   

Iqbal Sacranie

I think under the anti-terror laws 2000, 2002, that is very clear. That in terms of the numbers that have been raided, houses raided and then arrested the vast majority are Muslims there is a clear statistics on that.

   

Kenan Malik
voiceover

I can find no statistics that back up these claims. But because these views are so widely held, I decided to check further with Britain’s leading expert on stop and search, criminologist Dr Marian Fitzgerald.

   

Marian Fitzgerald

I think there's a lot of confusion about statistics and I think that a lot of confusing messages were put out when those figures first came out. Most searches aren't under the Prevention of Ierrorism Act, but when the figures are produced the Home Secretary did particularly emphasise this 300 per cent increase in searches on Asians. I think that's confused people into thinking that that there are an enormous amount of searches under this power, which there aren't and also further into thinking that almost all of those are on Asians which they aren't.

   

Kenan Malik
voiceover

Only a tiny fraction of stop and searches in this country are conducted under the anti-terror laws. If you look at all stop and searches, just seven per cent are made on Asians - roughly on par with their population.

Stop and search is used in a racist way. But the victims aren't Asian. They're black. You're now five times more likely to be stopped and searched if you're black than if you're Asian - though you wouldn't know that from all the hoo-hah about Islamophobia.

   

Kenan Malik
voiceover

Muslim Youth Helpline


The Muslim Youth Helpline is a much-praised counselling service for young Muslims. If Islamophobia was such a big issue you'd imagine that the workers here would be the first to know.

   

Kenan Malik
interview with
Shareefa Fulat

People look at the Muslim community and the issue they always focus on is Islamophobia, do you see that as a major problem?

   

Shareefa Fulat
Muslim Youth
Helpline

.

I think sometimes that can mask the real issues that are going on on the ground. When you look at our statistics of the issues that people call in about, Islamophobia doesn’t feature very prominently. That’s not to say that it’s not going on, it does happen, but there are other issues as well. I think the main things we deal with are depression, mental health, suicide and suicidal feelings, substance abuse, be it drugs or other forms of substances, sexual abuse, self harm, relationships, those sorts of things, and they're no different to the issues that young people in general face as they're going through adolescence into adulthood.

   

Kenan Malik
voiceover

There is undoubtedly ignorance and fear of Islam in this country. Muslims do get attacked because of their faith. And I believe that Britain's anti-terror laws are an affront to democracy. But it's hard to find evidence of a general climate of Islamophobia. Muslim leaders, nevertheless, worry about its impact.

   

Iqbal Sacranie
Muslim Council of Britain

When you start targeting a community there is that feeling of anger the frustration and hatred that comes in and that brings the young people away from the community and goes into the extreme hands.

   

Kenan Malik
voiceover

It's not Islamophobia, but the perception that it blights Muslim lives, that creates anger and resentment. That's why it's dangerous to exaggerate the hatred of Muslims. Even more worrying is the way that the threat of Islamophobia is now being used to stifle criticism of Islam.

END OF PART ONE

   
 

PART TWO

Kenan Malik
piece to camera
Arboretum Park Derby

This is Arboretum Park in Derby. Where I'm sitting there used to be a statue of a wild boar.

   

Kenan Malik
voiceover

The story of the Derby boar is a bizarre tale that reveals how the fear of being labelled Islamophobic actually makes community relations worse. The boar was damaged by German bombers in World War Two. A few years ago, Derby Council decided to replace the statue as part of the redevelopment of the park. But the Council's Ethnic Minorities Committee decided that a statue of a wild pig would offend Muslim sensibilities because Islam considers pigs unclean.

   

Maurice Burgess
Leader Derby Council

I'd originally said let's see if we can find something different to put there, bearing in mind that the community in that area is different to the community that lived there in the 1940s. But I think actually I got things wrong there.

   

Kenan Malik
voiceover

The attempt to ban the boar angered the local white population. The BNP turned up in Derby with inflammatory leaflets and created racial tensions where previously none had existed. And the funny thing is the local Muslims would never have minded in the first place.

   

Farid Hussein
Derby City councillor

To this day, nobody has come up to me from any of the representative groups or any individual has come up to me to say we must stop the council putting the boar in there.

   

Kenan Malik
voiceover

This is more than just an amusing story of political correctness gone mad. Paranoia about being stigmatised as an Islamophobe is creating a new level of self censorship. When I wrote an article for the Independent ten years ago, the editor removed a quote I'd used from Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses because he believed it too offensive to Muslims. These days almost any criticism of Islam can be attacked as Islamophobic. Guardian journalist Polly Toynbee has long been a campaigner for women's rights and secularism. Recently she has turned her sights on Islam, condemning in particular its treatment of women. She was branded an 'Islamophobe of the year' in a mock awards ceremony organised by the Islamic Human Rights Commission. The other British winner? BNP leader Nick Griffin.

   

Kenan Malik
interview with
Polly Toynbee

How did you feel when you were named Islamophobic media personality of the year?

   

Polly Toynbee
Guardian

I was really shocked. I found myself suddenly in the company of Ariel Sharon, George Bush, the BNP, Nick Griffin, and I don't believe I belong in that company at all. I'd never heard of the Islamic Human Rights - sounds something of a paradox to me. I was quite indignant really but that's what happens to you if you speak out at all then you're regarded as being racist essentially, and of course I got an avalanche of e-mails from all over the world as a result of this. I was getting thousands a day, profoundly abusive, really seriously abusive, and very threatening you know watch out for your children we know where you live and stuff like that.

   

Kenan Malik
voiceover

The man who branded Polly Toynbee an Islamophobe is the Islamic Human Rights Commission's Massoud Shadjareh, a consultant to the United Nations.

   

Kenan Malik

interview with
Massoud Shadjareh

Polly Toynbee's a rationalist, an anti- racist - she's always been an anti-racist. Don't you think people will think it mad that you put somebody like that in the same bracket as Nick Griffin?

   

Massoud Shadjareh
Islamic Human
Rights Commission

No I don't think so. There is a difference between disagreeing and actually dismissing certain ideologies and certain principles. We need to engage and discuss. But there’s a limit to that. Indeed when you look at Nuremburg there were people who were found guilty and indeed hanged who were caricaturists, they actually made caricatures of the Jewish community. I actually believe that we are seeing almost the same caricatures now being drawn and the only difference is that instead of a rabbi we've got an imam with a big long beard.

   

Kenan Malik

Are you seriously comparing Polly Toynbee with Nazi anti-Semites of the 1930s?

   

Massoud Shadjareh

What I'm saying is that once society goes down a certain road then it's very difficult to return. I disagree with hundreds of other philosophies but I will not deny the right of existence.

   

Kenan Malik

Nor does Polly Toynbee. What she says is that religion - as a whole, not just Islam - is wrong. What's wrong with that?

   

Massoud Shadjareh

She has actually in her own words in her own article 'In defence of Islamophobia'. If someone wrote 'In defence of anti-Semitism' you wouldn't be supporting it, no way would be supporting it.

   

Kenan Malik
voiceover

'You're an Islamophobe' they shout at anyone who does not give Islam due respect. But why should I respect Islam? Why shouldn't I be able to say I despise or detest the religion and its often misogynist, homophobic and reactionary practices? Isn't that part of democratic debate? Even practicing Muslims are getting worried.

   

Yasmin Alibhai Brown

I would never deny that Muslims have had a hard time and are still having a hard time in this country. But I think it would be dishonest of me if I didn't say that all too often Islamophobia is used as an excuse in a way to kind of blackmail society.

   

Kenan Malik
voiceover

Muslim journalist Yasmin Alibhai Brown disagrees with me about the extent of Islamophobia. But, like me, she, too, is worried about the way that the idea of Islamophobia is often exploited by Muslim leaders.

   

Yasmin Alibhai Brown

I've heard powerful Muslims say this they want the same power that the Jewish board of deputies has. 'Look at how they've used anti-Semitism, we can use Islamophobia'. I've heard them say this. But I think there's another much more dangerous thing than that. By and large the lowest achieving community in this country whether we're talking about schools Universities, occupations professions and so on are by and large, the majority are Muslims. When you talk to people about why this is happening the one reason they give you, the only reason is Islamophobia. Uh uh. It is not Islamophobia that makes parents take 14 year old bright girls out of school to marry illiterate men, and the girl has again to bring up the next generation who will again be denied not just education but the value of education. What Islamophobia does is it just becomes a convenient label a figleaf a reason that is so comfortable for Muslims whenever they have to look at why they aren't in the places that they have to be.

   

Kenan Malik
voiceover

Now, the Government is introducing new legislation to outlaw incitement to religious hatred. Supporters claim that the law will extend to Muslims, and other faith groups, the same protection that racial groups already possess. But you can't choose your skin colour. You can choose your beliefs. How can we protect beliefs without undermining free speech? The man who will have to apply the law is Director of Public Prosecutions, Ken MacDonald QC.

   

Ken MacDonald QC
Director of
Public Prosecutions

This legislation is controversial and there isn't a general consensus on this. Many religious groups are opposed to this law. Some people take the view that banning incitement to racial hatred is one thing but banning the incitement of hatred in relation to belief systems is another and that people should be allowed to be as offensive as they like about other people's belief systems. That's a perfectly legitimate view which people have argued strongly. You know in the United States, these laws would be inconceivable because of the first amendment to the constitution guaranteeing free speech. Now Parliament says it wants this law and we as prosecutors will have to prosecute it. I'm not sure it's entirely predictable who will be prosecuted.

   

Kenan Malik
voiceover


archive footage of
the burning of
The Satanic Verses

clip from Submission

I've already been stopped from quoting from The Satanic Verses. How much more restrictive will it be when the new law comes in? The Dutch film-maker Theo van Gogh was shot dead last year after an Islamic extremist took exception to his film Submission, which depicted Islam as treating women with contempt. In Britain, extremists may not need to go to such lengths, because the new law could make films like Submission illegal anyway. Human rights campaigners are particularly concerned. Maryam Namazie is a refugee from the sexual oppression of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

   

Maryam Namazie

There are laws in Iran which allow for women to be stoned to death if they have relations outside of marriage. It even specifies the size of the stones that need to be used, so it shouldn't be too small so that it takes too long to kill the woman and it shouldn't be too big so that it will kill the woman immediately.

   

Kenan Malik
voiceover

Already, Maryam is branded as an Islamophobe for speaking out against the Iranian regime. Now she's worried that the law against religious hatred will make her life even harder.

   

Maryam Namazie

You have people telling you what you are saying actually in defence of humanity is now racist. But in reality the real reason behind the support for this law is because they want to silence critics but in effect they're gonna use it against me and against people like me who are standing up to the Islamic movement, criticising Islam and the political Islamic movement.

   

Kenan Malik
voiceover

This programme has revealed the huge gap between the perception of Islamophobia and its reality. Muslims live in fear of a threat that has been exaggerated by community leaders, anti-racists and government ministers. We've found little evidence of a major backlash against Muslims - but plenty of evidence that the threat of Islamophobia is being used to silence critics of Islam. Pretending that Muslims have never had it so bad might bolster some community leaders and gain votes for politicians, but it does neither Muslims nor non-Muslims any favours. It's time for all our sakes' to challenge the myth of Islamophobia.