Mainstreamed anti-Muslim sentiment creates the climate for attacks and harassment.
Condemning the presence of Muslims in Britain is now routine. Media darling and quintessentially English TV chef Clarissa Dickson-Wright (full name Clarissa Theresa Philomena Aileen Mary Josephine Agnes Elsie Trilby Louise Esmerelda Dickson-Wright) wrote in her new book (published a few months ago) of her terror, when once visiting Leicester, and feeling ‘in the heart of a city in the middle of my own country, a complete outcast and pariah’. Muslim men (wearing ‘Islamic clothing’) wouldn’t talk to her because she ‘was an English female and they don’t talk to women they don’t know’. The Sun’s Trevor Kavanagh has offered his support, claiming that it is unsurprising how many ‘otherwise tolerant people’ feel as she felt when they enter what seems like a foreign land in Britain’s inner-cities. Meanwhile, the Mail’s Peter Hitchens has, this month, warned how the ‘real Islamist threat to Britain comes from mass immigration and multiculturalism’, lamenting how ‘we now also officially urge them to stay separate from the rest of society, and apologise to them for our Christian traditions’, apparently.
Last week, Keighley MP, Kris Hopkins, criticised the Children’s Commission’s report into child sexual exploitation for ‘dancing to a politically correct tune’ and ending up as an ‘opportunity lost’. The report provoked rage in some quarters because it didn’t capitulate to the dominant line that sexually exploiting white children was something inherent to British-Pakistani culture. The organisation JUST West Yorkshire reminded Kris Hopkins that all the report did was reveal that sexual exploitation wasn’t an issue intrinsic to one ethnicity, faith or ‘culture’. Kris Hopkins’ earlier remarks in the House of Commons about ‘gangs of Muslim men raping white kids’ may have made headlines, said JUST, but portraying sexual exploitation ‘primarily through a white girl/Muslim gang lens … does victims an injustice and even impedes efforts to keep children safe’.
None of this rhetoric is new, of course. The suspicion of Muslims, that has been given legitimacy through the ‘war on terror’, has been absorbed into government policies, ‘intellectual’ arguments and tabloid columns for over a decade now. But it is a form of racism that has become so normalised within dominant frameworks in the media, and with opinion-formers, that it is now completely routine for Muslims to be maligned and derided. Little wonder that such public Islamophobic sentiments are the backdrop for violent attacks.
Earlier this month, a 28-year-old man in Dundee, Grant Robertson, pleaded guilty to assault and acting in a ‘racially aggravated manner’. He told police that he had thrown a sword at some Muslim men praying, and explained ‘I wish it got them in the throat’. This came within a few days of an EDL supporter telling a jury that, although he had been part of one of the organisation’s demonstrations, in Surrey, in 2010, he was not part of a mob which went on to threw sticks, beer bottles and bacon at a mosque after it had finished. At the beginning of November, Barry Stanbury, a 42-year-old man, was convicted of vandalising a mosque earlier in the year. According to Islamophobia Watch, Stanbury’s Facebook page indicated his support for a plethora of far-right organisations. Last week, a teenager was caught throwing pieces of ham at a mosque in West Sussex. The week before that, racist graffiti was sprayed close to a mosque in Surrey. The list goes on and on. A family in Nottingham moved into their new home this month, and soon after, they received a house-warming present of a burning cross wrapped in ham on their doorstep. It was a case that barely made the news. When rhetoric begets racist reality the tabloids, of course, never want to know.