Ideas & Philosophy UK / Europe — 10 October 2006

The anger of Muslims over the revelation that Jack Straw, the leader of the House of Commons, requests’ Muslim women constituents to remove their nikab (face veil) in face-to-face interviews, the report that a Muslim police officer, with family ties in Lebanon, refused to guard the Israeli embassy during the recent Israeli/Lebanon war, and the judgment against a Muslim taxi driver who refused to take a (guide) dog into his cab – all headline news within the space of a few days – brilliantly enforces the notion of Londonistan, Britain. A notion of a minority intolerant Muslim community imposing its foreign values and culture on the host liberal society, and abusing the hospitality afforded them.

The backdrop to these high profile media incidents has been a deliberate and seemingly coordinated political campaign to focus on the apparent inadequacies of Muslim community in Britain. On 24 August, Ruth Kelly, MP, launched the new Commission on Integration and Cohesion specifically targeting Muslims communities and their apparent lack of integration. On 20 September, John Reid, the Home Secretary, travelled to East London, near the bungled police raid in Forrest Gate, to warn Muslim parents to watch over their children for signs of extremism. The opposition also got in on the act with the leader of the Conservative party, Dave Cameron, threatening, at the party conference on 4th of October, to dismantle Muslim dominated communities (ghettoes). Lastly amid the media frenzy and the ensuing debate on the 6th of October, the Office of National Statistics (ONS), the UK’s Official Statistics Institute, published a race and diversity map of Britain highlighting that in some towns of the UK there was a up to 85% chance that any two people chosen at random from a particular area would be from different ethnic groups, even if neither of them are white.

It appears the Government and its agencies orchestrate the loaded political debate and feed the ever eager and sensationalist media to create a caricature of fanatical Muslims. After repeated conditioning by the partial media, which is dominated by a handful of moguls, the media conducts or sponsors opinion polls. As an example, the Daily Express conducted an opinion poll on the weekend after Jack Straw’s revelations on whether the nikab should be banned, generating a ‘yes’ vote of 97%. These polls are then highlighted to show public opinion hostile to Muslims and their perceived values and culture – unsurprisingly. The opinion polls are then jumped on by agenda-driven politicians to justify draconian policies against the fragmented Muslim community that seriously lacks the media outlets to be able to dent the negative perception generated by Government and scandalously propagated by the media.

This chain of events is becoming ever more common on a host of important issues: the argument for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq; the debate on Sarah’s Law; and the discourse around detaining suspects for up to 30-days without charge. It raises serious questions about the politicisation of independent institutions (the security services, the police and the judiciary), of the impartiality of debate, the manipulative role of the media and ultimately about the strength and health of British democracy.

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