Kenan Malik, 'What Hate?' - response from Inayat Bunglawala
9th January 2005
Kenan Malik (What Hate?, The Guardian, Friday 7th January 2005) compares the racist violence of the 1970s and 80s with that of today and concludes that �anti-Muslim prejudice is [now] much weaker�. In so doing, Mr Malik has made the � unfortunately not uncommon - mistake of equating Islam with race. They are not the same. A recent Open Society Institute report �Muslims in the UK: Policies for Engaged Citizens� found that �Muslims in the UK are more likely to face discrimination based on religion rather than race.�
If Mr Malik had succeeded in overcoming this basic conceptual hurdle then he would have been able to recognise how and why the likes of the British National Party have � for fear of being prosecuted under our incitement to race hate laws - switched their strategy from targeting racial groupings to explicitly targeting British Muslims as a faith group. Malik�s Guardian comment piece and his C4 documentary �Are Muslims Hated?� strangely omitted any mention of the northern riots of 2001 and the key role the BNP�s Muslim-baiting played in them. Mr Malik then gallingly used his documentary to criticise the government�s proposals to close the loophole in our legislation and prohibit incitement to religious hatred. Does Mr Malik � who describes himself as an anti-racist - think that the BNP should be allowed to continue their incitement because it is merely anti-Muslim?
Islamophobia is not confined to the far right. Last summer, the BBC conducted a survey in which fictitious applications were made for jobs using applicants with the same qualifications and work experience, but different names. The investigation found that a quarter of the applications by the candidates with traditionally English sounding names were successful in securing an interview, compared with 13% for the applicants with Black African names and only 9% of applicants with Muslim names.
The mainstream media have been no less culpable in fomenting this prejudice against Muslims and contributing to their emergence as the �folk devils� of popular and media imagination. In July 2004, the Sunday Telegraph published a series of four breathtakingly anti-Muslim pieces by Will Cummins in which he compared Muslims with dogs and argued why �Muslims are a threat to our way of life� (Sunday Telegraph, 25 July 2004). It is simply unthinkable that an editor of a national newspaper would still be in his job if he had allowed a similar barrage of hate to be directed at Afro-Caribbean�s or Jews.
Neither of these above examples � chosen from countless others in recent years � was mentioned by Kenan Malik. It can appear, as Kenan Malik says that �Islamophobia is a myth�, but only if you deliberately choose to look the other way.
The Muslim Council of Britain
London E15 1NT