Author: Hugh Muir, Laura Smith (Editor), Robin Richardson (Editor)
Genre: Social Science
Publisher: Trentham Books Ltd
Release Date: 1 Jun 2004
This report should be read by anyone who believes that Islamophobia only exists in the minds of Muslims. Credit is due to a retired London GP, Dr Richard Stone, for ensuring there is an up-to-date document describing the objective reality. As chair of the ‘Commission on British Muslims and Islamophobia’ – a body comprising 13 experts, six of whom are Muslims – Dr Stone is largely responsible for keeping the matter alive and on the public agenda. The Commission was established by the Runnymede Trust in 1996 and its first report, ‘Islamophobia: A challenge for us all’ was published in 1997.
The updated report takes stock of the impact of 9/11 and the subsequent pillorying of Muslims by the media, the disturbances in the North of England in summer 2001, and other landmarks such as the publication of religion data from the 2001 Census and the new Employment Directive relating to religious discrimination that came into force in December 2003. It revisits the 60 recommendations that were made in the 1997 report – requiring action by central and local government, public bodies and civil society institutions – concluding that “a many-pronged approach to combating Islamophobia and [to] recognise British Muslim identity is required”.
The report urges for a policy of ‘positive duty’ (i.e. a statutory duty) for the promotion of equality of opportunity and the avoidance of discrimination. It calls on the CRE (Commission for Racial Equality) to take an active role in policing how employers and suppliers in the public sector fulfil such ‘positive duty’ responsibilities. This raises two questions, conceptual and practical. Firstly, Islam is a religion rather than an ethnicity – in fact a religion that transcends ethnic boundaries. Therefore, is it not going against the grain to accept protection under racial equality legislation? Secondly, will the CRE – that has a dismal record in taking up cases of religious discrimination faced by Muslims of Asian ethnicity – rise to the challenge?
The Commission has taken particular care in its consultation process to ensure the views of mainstream Muslim community organisations have been taken on board. The Commission collected fresh data through interviews, and also took account of the views of experts and the findings of recent academic studies. The outcome is a work that is an authentic reflection of the state of affairs.