Islamophobia – A tool to manage Britain’s Muslims?

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SHAFAQNA-
City Circle held a critical debate this week at Abrar House in London entitled ‘Islamophobia: Define, Map, Tackle’.  Muslim terminology has increasingly been appropriated by those who hate it im the West. Neoconservatives, neoliberals, fascists  the media, and the State itself have all misused terms ranging from niqab to jihad and sharia. The one term coined, most probably by Muslims, which remains apparently unloved by its protagonists is ‘islamophobia’ but is it ?
In this seminar the expert panel sought to define Islamophobia, map the extent of the negative sentiments towards Muslims in the UK, and proposed mechanisms for tackling Islamophobia. Speakers at the event included Dr Omar Khan, Director, Runnymede Trust, Isobel Ingham-Barrow, Lecturer, University of Exeter, and Head of Policy & Research for MEND. Joining them  was also Hayyan Bhabha an Independent Member of the  Cross-Government Working Group on Anti-Muslim Hatred.
Islamophobia is defined as an intense fear or hatred of, or prejudice against, the Islamic religion or Muslims, especially when seen as a geopolitical force or the source of terrorism. The term was first used in the early 20th century and it reached public policy prominence with the 1997 report by the Runnymede Trust’s Commission on British Muslims and Islamophobia.
There are a number of other possible terms which are also used in order to refer to negative feelings and attitudes towards Islam and Muslims, such as anti-Muslimism, intolerance against Muslims, anti-Muslim prejudice, anti-Muslim bigotry, hatred of Muslims, anti-Islamism, Muslimophobia, demonisation of Islam, or demonisation of Muslims. In German, Islamophobie(fear) and Islamfeindlichkeit (hostility) are used. The Scandinavian term Muslimhat literally means “hatred of Muslims”
The causes and characteristics of Islamophobia are still debated. The definition and validity of the term continues to be questioned with some academics saying that it lacks a clarity, making the mapping and tackling of Islamophobia increasingly difficult. Dr Omar said that the term was now so commonly used that it “cannot really be avoided or erased no matter how technically vague it is” just as the term extremism is used just as vaguely, by the British State itself, without even  a recognized formal legal definition. What is clear is that Islamic human rights campaigners like IHRC and CAGE have utilized it to create awareness of the creeping institutional discrimination against Britain’s Muslim communities.
It is alleged, however, that government sponsored or promoted organizations like Tell Mama have gradually been propped up to take ownership of the Islamophobia narrative too; in order to counter the work of genuinely independent grass roots Muslim rights activists and to, both, create as well as take charge of grievance platforms for victims of Islamophobic hate crimes. If true such organizations could also act as the eyes and ears for the present anti Muslim Tory government.They could also feed back data, contacts and statistics about the Muslim communities to their clandestine paymasters. For the totally cynical, at its worst, these Government funded anti Islamophobia front organizations could be being deployed simply to monitor the effectiveness, or otherwise, of the neoconservative campaign to make Muslims the target of right wing hatred. Worse still, they are alleged to be acting as a ‘controlled opposition’ to stop any possibility of allowing real service oriented, independent Muslim activists from getting the exclusive loyalty of grassroots communities.
All terror legislation since 9/11 has been a response to the Islamophobic view of Islam as an ideological threat to secular values and the result has been the steady erosion of the liberties of Muslims – in fact, more so than any other British based community, it’s Muslims who have increasingly become the pariahs.
Governments never like talking to real critics of their policies and the growing suspicion is that they have successfully created their own controlled Muslim opposition; while also employing the services of alleged sychophantic, careerist pseudo-Muslims like Sajid Javed MP and Mr Rehman Chishti MP. The  propensity of  this establishment-friendly Muslim clique is in fact to ensure Muslims do not rise up against the current  Government’s islamophobic policies. The fact that this community buffer zone to the corridors of power is made up of the Government’s own in-house ‘house Muslims’ is unsurprising and their failure to engage the establishment  more vigorously to prevent the drift towards second class citizenship of Muslims in Britain and the West is no accident. Anti Islamophobia campaigners say ‘these stooges effectively  cocoon their political and financial  masters from true community engagement with Muslims and replacing it with meaningless discourse, croneyism and a rubber stamping exercise for further draconian Islamophobic laws’.  The complicity of this cadre of self-hating house Muslims , say activists, is made all the more apparent because inspite of the Tory governments consistent track record of institutional Islamophobia they continue to tackle symptoms whilst failing to address root causes or provide cures for the disease of Islamophobia. Many Muslims are now increasingly questioning the wisdom, and indeed the integrity of government funded anti- Islamophobia organizations whose primary aim seems simply to be they remain included on the government’s counter terrorism gravy train in order to access government funds maintain their power, secure their titles and enhance their status.
Muslim activists like Roshan Mohammad Saleh argue that no matter what the definition of Islamophobia is Muslims need to call out the institutional Islamophobia of this Tory government by refusing to collaborate with their programmes such as Prevent, which many say are spying programmes with the intent of identifying Islam as a danger to mainstream Britain, and sowing the seeds for intra-Muslim conflict as well as delivering a State psyops strategy for religio politically engineering  Britain’s Muslims towards an apolitical religion, compliant and subservient to the neoliberal hierarchy. He also added that Muslim representatives or organizations will soon have to come clean and decide if ” they are with us or against us because we will now call them out on their hypocricy by naming and shaming them.”
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