Government urged to fix ‘broken relationship’ with British Muslims

28th Jul 2017
Government urged to fix ‘broken relationship’ with British Muslims

Hamed Chapman

The British Government is being urged to “reassess the way in which it engages” with its Muslim communities and to “play their role in ending the current stalemate” in what it calls a “broken relationship.”

The Citizens Commission on Islam, Participation & Public Life, chaired by former Attorney General, Dominic Grieve, has also called on ministers to urgently review its controversial Prevent extremism programme that effectively demonises all Muslims.

“There is a broken relationship that needs to be resolved, and both parties need to be proactive in addressing this,” it recommended in its report on ‘Missing Muslims: Unlocking British Muslim Potential for the Benefit of All’.

The report, published this month, found a strong sense that Muslims and Islam are ‘unfairly targeted’ and suggested that wider engagement, “including the robust challenging of views with which it disagrees, rather than the apparent boycott of certain organisations, could best enable the Government to hear from the widest possible cross-section of the UK’s Muslim communities, including young people and women.”

Muslim communities will also need to “devise ways of allowing for engagement that better reflect their pluralistic nature,” the Commission, set up by Citizen UK in 2015, also added. It further proposed it may be able to identify those who can support and facilitate these discussions, and create a forum with which the government can engage.

During interviews with British Muslims, it reported that there was a fear of discrimination that was even putting young British Muslims off from engaging in politics and other aspects of public life. It was Prevent, set up in an attempt to stop extremism that was particularly strongly criticised – being raised as an issue in all 11 cities that the Commission visited to gather evidence.

As a result, the Commission recommends that tackling extremism and radicalisation would be “better achieved with a programme that has greater trust, particularly from the UK’s Muslim communities”. It also calls on ministers to come up with a definition of anti-Muslim prejudice across Government, in the same way, Anti-Semitism was formally defined last year. It further suggests that press watchdog Ipso should consider issuing reporting guidance for the media when reporting on Muslim issues.

The former Attorney General, who is still a senior Troy MP, said the shocking terrorist attacks in Westminster, Manchester, London Bridge and Finsbury Park demonstrate the “terrible impact extremism has on innocent citizens.”

The response brought communities coming together in unity and defiance and demonstrates “why the recommendations in this report should be actioned as a matter of priority, so the UK can build on the positive work already happening.”

‘However, we cannot ignore the fact that polls also demonstrate significant scepticism across British society about the integration, and even the shared allegiance, of their British Muslim fellow citizens,” he warned.

Commissioner Ifath Nawaz said they met individuals who were “passionate about promoting the benefits of being active within civil society and working together for the common good.” But that set against this was “a backdrop of the need for some state action, particularly around anti-Muslim prejudice, and a more robust stance against the accuracy of reporting around Muslim issues.”

In response to the report, a Government spokeswoman was quoted saying that it was “clear there should be no conflict between being British and being Muslim and that active participation in public life should be open to all.”

“We’ve invested over £70 million on the integration programme since 2010. The findings of this report will help us take forward our work in creating a society where everyone – of any faith, ethnicity or background – feels valued and can participate fully,” the spokeswoman said.



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