It goes without saying that we at TELL MAMA think anti-Muslim prejudice is a very serious issue. We have seen the impacts on victims of anti-Muslim prejudice first hand and particularly on women and young people. We therefore take all reports of anti-Muslim prejudice very seriously. We also do our very best on the limited resources that we have, to offer the right kind of support for those who have suffered from discrimination on the basis of their faith. However, our work is currently not being helped by those who seek to abuse this social issue for their own political or egotistical ends.
As well as receiving many serious and heart-breaking reports from individuals who have suffered from anti-Muslim prejudice on a daily basis, we also receive some spurious reports in which individuals, seeking to sleight their political or personal opponents, claim they have suffered from anti-Muslim discrimination. In light of this disturbing, and wholly unhelpful development, we feel it is necessary to clarify a few points.
We have made clear before that our role is not to ‘protect religion’ but to support victims of anti-Muslim prejudice and to work with police forces to ensure that prosecutions are secured where possible. Our work also involves mapping, measuring and monitoring anti-Muslim hatred. This means that those who are critical of religion, whether it is Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam or any other belief system are not the focus of our work unless, for example, contextually they target Muslims and in doing so also use Islam as a cover for marginalising and caricaturing Muslims. Context, past form and evidence are essential in assessing whether cases will form part of the final statistical figures which are then independently analysed by Teesside University. These are all published annually and we are in the process of releasing our 2013/2014 annual report in the next few weeks.
Similarly, criticising or ridiculing an individual, for their political and social views, who also happens to be a Muslim, does not automatically constitute anti-Muslim prejudice. To suggest it does is to place Muslims and Islam beyond the reach of everyday discussion and debate. Nothing fuels the far-right more than the notion that Muslims are seeking a special privileged status for themselves and their religion. It is, therefore, vitally important that Muslims don’t inadvertently give fodder to the far-right by using our organisation to pursue personal vendettas against individuals whom they have had disagreements with.
The work to stamp out anti-Muslim prejudice in our society is difficult enough as it is and we already have our hands full dealing with a steady stream of reports with limited time and resources. It is equally important for members of the public who may use our services to appreciate the dangers of abusing the ‘anti-Muslim prejudice’ card for any petty squabbles.
We will continue to encourage those that have suffered from anti-Muslim prejudice to come forward and lodge reports with us and we will continue to support those who need help and assistance, whilst raising awareness of this vital issue. Reporting anti-Muslim hate in is vital to countering prejudice. Using anti-Muslim prejudice to further personal vendettas or political disagreements simply fuels more prejudice.