Open letter to PM David Cameron regarding anti-Muslim hate crime


Rt. Hon. David Cameron MP
Prime Minister
10 Downing Street

16 July 2013

Dear Mr. Cameron,

Attacks on Mosques and the Prevalence of Anti-Muslim Hate Crime

I am sure you are aware of the report released last week that states about half of all UK Mosques have been attacked since 9-11 in hate incidents.  To organisations such as ours, that have a long history of working on issues related to hate crime, this is not really news -– we have been aware of the levels of hatred pitched at our community not simply since, but even before 9-11.

Our own research on the UK found that 13% of Muslims surveyed had experienced a hate motivated physical attack.  Our survey was part of a pilot project to assess levels of discriminatory, demonised and hate experiences amongst Muslims.  An executive summary is attached.  Our research looked at explicit and implicit experiences, and the wider findings are pertinent to the core of this letter, as you will see from below.

My concern in writing today, focuses on the response to last week’s news about attacks on Mosques.  Mosques, as with any place of worship, form the core of a community and symbolise their cultural identity and affect the sensibility not just of the worshippers of a particular place, but to the members of that community at large.  Just as an attack on a church in any part of the world would be held to be repugnant by Christians (and indeed Muslims and those of many other faiths and none) in other parts of the world, so too an attack on a mosque anywhere is a source of pain to any right minded person whether Muslim or not.

For half of any community’s places of worship – their sacred spaces –  to have been desecrated in just over 10 years is a shocking indictment of the state of our society.  A lot of focus has been put on the rise of the far-right when discussing such issues, however our own view based on our research leads us to conclude otherwise when looking for the source of this upsurge in hatred that manifests itself in symbolic acts of violence such as these.

The failure to adequately condemn both the level of attacks historically, but the two very recent failed bomb attacks on mosques has already been remarked upon by other observers.  This is not in our opinion where the real cause for concern lies. We feel that blame falls on successive governments for fomenting the demonisation of Muslims in particular and various so-called minorities in general.  Many of the attacks perpetrated whether against places of worship or individuals are carried out by people unaffiliated with any organised group.  Their motivation to attack comes from the drip feed demonisation of Muslims via political, public and media discourse that problematises all things Muslim and posits them as a threat to wider society.  In such scenarios, ordinary citizens, often never having met a Muslim, feel they must defend themselves by going on the attack.  We feel such perpetrators are also victims of the culture of demonisation as the Muslims and minorities who feel the brunt of their violent attacks. 

It is surely the responsibility of government to curb anti-Muslim rhetoric across these fora, starting in the political field.  It is less than a hundred years since anti-Semitic rhetoric could be aired in political circles in this country, and Black shirts marched the streets as a result believing the political, social and media climate to be conducive to their violent aims.  Indeed it was a coalition of citizens across communities who defeated this menace in the Battle of Cable Street without the help of the establishment and law enforcement.  Eventually the political elite took action to not just curb anti-Semitic rhetoric but to ensure it was eradicated from public discourse of any sort.  Must we wait for appalling horrors of great magnitude before other forms of institutionalised racism are tackled?

It is surely the responsibility of government to clearly and quickly condemn anti-Muslim attacks, but to also offer protection to vulnerable and beleaguered communities.  Given the level of threat against Muslim places of worship, should not police forces be directed to provide protection and advice to the people and places under threat?

Before signing off, I wish to underline that any discussion about the attacks on Muslims and their places of worship cannot and must not be linked to discussions about ‘radicalisation’ and extremism or values and integration.  Protection from violence, and social, media and political demonisation of Muslims or for that matter any community or individual cannot be made conditional upon a change of their beliefs or non-violent practices.  We hold this to be true whether it applies to Muslims in their diversity and in community, or any member of any faith, culture or political group. 

I hope you will be able to respond to these concerns with an unequivocal condemnation of the attacks the Muslim community faces, and a commitment to providing protection for our community from not only street violence, but the symbolic violence of demonised political, media and social discourse.

Yours sincerely,

Massoud Shadjareh

Cc:  Rt. Hon. Nick Clegg MP, Deputy Prime Minister