Press TV has conducted an interview with Massoud Shadjareh, head of the Islamic Human Rights Commission in London, to talk about the rise of Islamophobia in Britain. The following is an approximate transcription of the interview.
Press TV: I am trying to get an idea here from you. Based on what happened in Woolwich, there were at least 10 attacks on mosques and then there is a hotline just one hotline by the name of Tell Mama that said that there were 193 incidents that were reported since that attack when it took place and it said that usually they have got an average of 3. Are we looking at an epidemic in terms of anti-Muslim and anti-Islam action there in the UK?
Shadjareh: Yes and it is not really just after the Woolwich. We have been having several attacks and indeed increased demonization which led to hate crimes against Muslims going long back, even before 9/11. But it is escalating.
What Tell Mama has reported really is a very small fraction of what is happening in reality. Our reports, which is a qualitative/quantitative survey which was done on 2011, highlighted that 13 percent of Muslims were victims of physical attack. Now you do your math. It is 3.5 million Muslims; 13 percent comes through hundreds of thousands of victims and the reality is that Muslims are not reporting these incidents; one because they don’t get any joy out of the police and security in protection and secondly, it is just becoming too often, too many and the reality is that these attacks are not just by the extreme right.
There is a level of demonization of Muslims which goes far, far beyond that. I mean a poll by YouGov about a year ago showed that 37 percent of the British electorate who vote are saying they would vote for a party which will reduce the number of Muslims in Britain.
There are only three ways of doing that: either you forcibly change the religion or you ethnic cleanse them and kick them out of the country or you sort of commit genocide and kill them and each of these three options is outrageous that tell that this is the level of demonization and hatred which is being promoted in Britain and indeed the police have done almost nothing to protect the Muslim community.
We heard immediately after Woolwich that there is going to be increased security for barracks. Barracks are military bases; they could protect themselves; indeed they should protect the rest of us. They do not need protection against two loonies with knives.
The rest of community which have been attacked, the mosques, the schools, the nurseries, they are the ones who are vulnerable and need protection and I wrote to the metropolitan police commissioner, highlighting that there need to be protection for the community and what I got in return was a wishy-washy sort of statement like we protect all in our society which is really totally outrageous.
Press TV: What do you think there is a reaction to that effect from the police there and to make matters worse? We understand that the police have actually come out since the Woolwich incident when there have been these numerous attacks that have been taking place and there have been 11 attacks on mosques. They have said Islamophobia and the target of Muslims is understated that is being reported like it is an epidemic or that it is so grand in number but really there is not that many instances. Why would they make a public statement like that?
Shadjareh: Because Islamophobia has become institutionalized; it actually exists within the metropolitan police; it exists within our media; our politicians are Islamophobic.
When I said 37 percent of people are voting for a party that will reduce the number of Muslims, the politicians’ 37 percent popularity is actually important to them. So they are all playing into this public fear and actually encouraging it. I put it to metropolitan police that if one synagogue was attacked in Britain rightly, there would have been protection for every single synagogue in the country but there is no such a thing for the mosque and I go beyond that.
It is not just mosque that needs to be protected and the Muslim centers but these loonies sometimes have targeted the Hindu temples because there really are differences among us. They are only using Islamophobia as a legitimate mean of being racist and really I have to say that metropolitan police in the last few years have moved away from talking to legitimate institutions who actually are professionals in these areas and only likes to speak to those in a very low level of the Muslim community which are not really equipped to deal and articulate the needs and aspiration and the protection of the community and they themselves are actually making sure that there is really not right representation of Muslim community when it comes in communication with themselves and indeed with the home office and others.
I think the matter is really of urgency that something needs to be done. I am fearful for other centers because at the moment I don’t see any positive action taken that could ensure this sort of thing will not happen again.
Press TV: When you talk about how fearful you are for other centers, I am going to try to test your memory here and rewind. An anti-racism organization by the name of Runnymede Trust has said that persistent and untackled Islamophobia in the UK could lead to ‘time-bombs’ of backlash and bitterness.
Now what is interesting about this which brings about fear is that this announcement was made back in June of 2004, nine years ago. So is this a case where Islamophobia has just been piling on top of each other in terms of anti-Islam and anti-Muslim sentiment across the UK? Would the government not doing much about it with this much coming to the surface back 9 years ago?
Shadjareh: Absolutely, I mean the first reports we did on Islamophobia was on year 2000. We showed 35 percent of Muslims were victims of it. Then there was one on 2006 which showed that the number has increased to 85 percent.
“The numbers are increasing day by day and the government is behaving like ostriches, hiding their heads in the sand and ignoring. The reality is that the level of Islamophobia is rising to such an extent that, as I said, Muslims are becoming not only second class citizens but in danger of not just backlash but much worse.”
We saw that these levels of demonization led to the Holocaust in Germany, ethnic cleansing in former Yugoslavia and that was the heart of Europe and it was not that long ago. The reason that the people in Bosnia were being killed and raped in the rape camps and ethnically cleansed was the level of demonization that preceded this genocidal act and Holocaust.
We actually have been warning about this; others have been warning; Institute of Race Relations has warned and all the government has done is put 240 thousand pound which is a chicken feed into organizations like Tell Mama which by its definition is only going to be able to show only a fraction of the incidents. You know, 240 is nothing. After 9/11, we had 8,000 within the first month.
Press TV: The way that one of our viewers on our Facebook page referred to the killing of this British soldier and relating that to basically the foreign policy of the UK in terms of the wars that it has been involved, for example in Iraq and in Afghanistan, are we looking at a trend now that is going to start which is displaying itself in terms of what we are seeing there on the streets such as the attack on mosques?
Shadjareh: The reality is that, if you are referring to sort of the reason for the Woolwich attack, we have to look at the video and we look at even 7/7 video, you see very clearly that these guys are articulating that they are doing this because the West and Britain is doing similar things in Afghanistan and Iraq, etc.
The fact of the matter is that this ideology of terrorism which I believe is based on the end justifies the means, the minute that any individual government or group believes that end justifies the means, then those would lead to acts of terror and state terrorism is much worse than individual terrorism.
When Madeleine Albright even before 9/11 said that half a million children in Iraq who died as a result of sanctions was justifiable to get rid of Saddam Hussein, that was as much act of terrorism and even much worse than 9/11 or 7/7 put together and those sentiments, those philosophies are the ones that are picked up by these individuals.
Now when it comes to the attack of the one we saw on the Islamic center, one of the reasons also for that is the fact that all the media and politicians are concentrating, associating the whole of the Muslim community and indeed Islam with those criminalities. We do not do that in any other way.
When Brevieck in Holland blew up the buildings and killed 80 people, it was not even called terrorism and nobody looked into those hate preachers like Melanie Phillips who were his gurus and indeed they continue as extreme Zionists promoting hatred against Muslims and Islam to the extent of her book ‘Londonistan’ and actually a very provocative title, no one is trying to actually blame those preachers for promoting and legitimizing these acts.
Politicians are involved in the hate speech and promotion of this. When you criminalize the whole community for act of few, then you legitimize these attacks which we saw in the Islamic center.
Press TV: I am curious about one thing. You may recall when the incident happened in Woolwich happened and the Prime Minister David Cameron came and finally made a press statement, saying that we know that Muslims would not do this; we know that this is not what Islam preaches and I gathered a sense of hope in that statement.
Why is it that that sentiment was not translated into action? I mean, do you see any signs that the government is going to do anything regarding this rising Islamophobia that has been going on now for years and years?
Shadjareh: No, nothing whatsoever. They are ignoring it; they are ignoring all the reports on it. As I said, they only have put 240 thousand which is chicken feed into methodology which is not going to even highlight the whole thing.
But you see the problem is not individual words that is said by the prime minister. The action is very important. They immediately called it terrorism; they sort of set up Cobra operation and so forth and so on. They made it into a huge thing. This was two loonies which kitchen knives who even when they committed those acts and when you look at the videos, people were not running away from them; they were coming forward and talking to them. There was somebody passing by with the sort of shopping trolley.
They did not have the feeling that people were being threatened because if you see Mad Axeman, everybody runs. Those videos do not show that, do not reflect that but they turn it into a huge thing and then afterward immediately they are talking about setting up a task force to deal with extremism.
Well, first define what is extremism. Even within the Muslim community, people sometimes call each other extremist because somebody has got beard or somebody prays 5 times a day and they say you are an extremist. So there is no definition for that. It is a very loose word that could mean many things to many people and it is deliberately being used and I am very concerned that by that definition, you are associating all these acts with the Muslim community.
You are dragging the Muslim community leadership to come through the door one by one, sort of apologizing and condemning to the extent they become associated with that. We never do that with any other community and I think all these policies are targeted first of all for popularity within the masses that look at these bunches of terrorists we are trying to deal with but also is in a sort of denial of the real reasons, foreign policy, alienation and even anti-terror laws that have been doing nothing except alienating the very youth.
In our universities, we are not allowing the Muslims to have discussions on different things. It is banned. The minute that Muslims want to discuss Sharia or Jihad or Palestine, there is a ban coming from sources. In the mosques, they cannot discuss these things. So what happens? They are being pushed underground and underground is a very good place for Takfiris to actually reach these people and then misguide them.
Press TV: That is an excellent point that you make. I would like to relate this back to the lack of action by the government. I would like to make a comparison here, for example when the eurozone debt crisis hit, there were some information that were run on the Britain’s state-run TV, the BBC, of what caused it, how many countries were involved and where the depths were. They can do the same regarding Islam; they could do the same regarding Muslims. Why is it that they are refraining, especially the media, from educating the masses in order for it to prevent Islamophobia to keep spreading?
Shadjareh: The minute that we open our mouths in any media and try to look at the causes and analyzing what has happened, these videos and everything else to try to really go deep into why this is taking place which is when it comes back to alienation, to the creation of us and them and this is a process that the British government is involved in very heavily but the minute we open our mouths, we are being told that we are trying to justify these acts.
No, we are not. We all actually need to look at this calmly without prejudice and actually try to analyze and find out what is going on. But I think the government is not really interested in this. There is also another element and that is the whole industry, anti-terrorism industry, which is a multibillion pound and dollar industry right across the world which actually its survival depends on creating more fear and more demonization and that is also a very huge problem and obstacle for sitting down, analyzing and getting to the bottom of this because terrorism is something that no one likes.
It affects all of us; it does not differentiate between white, black, brown, Muslim, Christian or anything else. But it has been used as a tool of demonization and I have to say to also one of the Twitters that the Zionists actually seem to be forefront of this and in this process of creating and wooing this demonization.
Press TV: This cannot go unchallenged. What can be done? You represent the Islamic Human Rights Commission and I am sure you are doing your part. How can this now be moved forward by different people or organizations such as yours?
Shadjareh: We actually have to on one side stop being sort of victim mentality. We are victims but we don’t have to play that game. We need to come up and challenge.
We need to challenge this not just in Britain, collectively Muslims and non-Muslims but also on the international arena, we will be taking aspects of this to courts, aspects of this to the UN and we have to do everything to work towards creating a better and juster and safer society for all of us.