Over the last decade meetings with senior ministers in the previous Labour administration around Islamophobia or anti-Muslim prejudice literally led nowhere. The focus was extremism, extremism and extremism. Whilst extremism is an area which needs a consistency of focus, it should not have been the only lens through which Muslim communities were seen and it was increasingly becoming so towards the final 3-4 years of the Labour administration.
Over the last 3 years, there have been problems, though there has been an important re-shifting of the relationship between the Government and Muslim communities. Out has gone violent extremism just related to Muslim communities and in has come ‘tackling extremism,’ which includes Far Right and other forms of extremism. Out has gone groups that placed themselves as sole representatives of Muslim communities, and in has come a multitude of voices from Muslim communities. Out has also gone inaction about Islamophobia or anti-Muslim prejudice and in has come a consistency in dealing with this social phenomenon which Baroness Warsi stated in early 2011, had sadly passed the ‘dinner table’ test.
This change in position around anti-Muslim prejudice is clear through recent speeches by the Prime Minister and others. Take for example, David Cameron talking recently at the Eid-Ul-Adha celebration at 10 Downing Street. The full text of the speech can be found here and is well worth a read to reflect the change in position. The Prime Minister makes clear the following:
“We still have a huge battle fighting prejudice in our country, and I think perhaps particularly Islamophobia – people telling lies about your religion – is one that we have to face up to particularly strongly in our country. And it’s a time to remember that. It’s also a time to remember that welcoming people to our country of all faiths is something that has to go across every single part of life.”
Or take this position by David Cameron regarding misinformation circulated in his consitituency regarding the development of a local mosque. Or take a range of projects that ministers within his Government have approved and will be looking to approve.
What the Prime Minister needs right now, is people who believe in pluralism, equality and fairness in our society and communities to stand with him; to support his vision of a country where hate should be challenged through existing systems and structures and where every community has a role and a part to play in that future. We say to the Prime Minister, this is a vision that draws all people towards a modern, stronger and more competitive Britain. Thank you!