Opposition urged to confront exclusion of Muslims from policy-making

An IHRC Briefing: Shrinking space for CSOs in the UK

Islamic Human Rights Commission

10 January 2019

PRESS RELEASE – UK: Opposition urged to address exclusion of Muslims from policy-making

IHRC has written to the political opposition urging it to urgently confront the shrinking political space available for civil society organisations in the country.

Prompted by the systematic exclusion by successive Conservative governments of CSOs from policy-making and faced with the prospect of a ‘No-Deal Brexit’ general election, IHRC is asking the other parties to urgently address the crisis facing the CSO sector, in particular the squeeze on Muslim CSO’s.

The letter is accompanied by a briefing produced by IHRC which warns of the damaging consequences for democracy if CSO space continues to be pressured by a combination of regulatory restrictions, exclusion from political participation and the failure to act against attacks on CSOs by other political actors.

In particular it warns of the risks of forcing to the margins authentic CSOs from the Muslim community that do not conform to preconceived official strategies or desired policy outcomes.

“The effect of this has been to produce policies that are often counterproductive, discriminatory and which do not address the fundamental concerns, needs and aspirations of Britain’s approximately three million Muslims, and which often ultimately impact other minoritised groups and on occasion the majority too,” states the briefing.

The attack on the CSO space has contributed to the delegitimisation of some Muslim or Muslim led CSOs and also non-Muslim civil society in general.

The recent review of ‘shariah councils’ highlights one instance where the government appointed panel failed to include any CSOs or individuals that could be said to be representative of the Muslim community.

Moreover those Muslim CSOs and groupings which continue to operate against all odds face victimisation by a hostile and Islamophobic government that smears their participation as “entryism”. The so-called Trojan Horse affair in which Muslim participation in the running of Muslim-majority schools was turned into a moral panic about extremism represents a very powerful case in point.

According to the briefing and the letter, we are living in a moment described as an environment of hate against Muslims.  This environment is the product of the cross fertilising and mutual reinforcing of anti-Muslim racism political, media and policy discourse.  Attacks on Muslim civil society must be understood as part of this climate which is part of the deeper crisis of the political and social culture we live in.

IHRC chair Massoud Shadjareh said: “There is no doubt whatsoever that a double standard operates in relation to the Muslim community. The community is subject to a far-reaching project of social engineering in which it is not allowed to choose its own representatives or leaders not articulate its views without any interference from the state. The kinds of pre-conditions placed on Muslim participation are not found in the Sikh, Hindu or Jewish communities.”

Notes to editors:

The full briefing is available to read at https://www.ihrc.org.uk/publications/briefings/20386-briefing-the-shrinking-political-space-for-csos-in-the-uk/

For more information please call +(44) 7958 522196 or (+44) 20 8904 4222

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IHRC is an NGO in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.

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