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Open-minded Brits distrust Islam

DISTRUST: Prof Boas says some Brits believe that Islam is a threat to national identity

A PROFESSOR of population studies has said that open-minded British people are becoming less tolerant of Islam.

Prof David Boas, of the University of Manchester, claims that while the Brits are becoming more tolerant about things like homosexuality and ethnicity there seems to be growing distrust of Islam.

“British people are probably less tolerant of Muslims than in the past, though it is difficult to be sure because our information about earlier periods is limited,” Prof Boas told Manchester Mouth.

His comments came after the annual British Social Attitudes (BSA) survey discovered that more than half the population believe that the country is divided along religious lines.

It also revealed that the majority of people would be concerned if a mosque opened near where they live when only 15 per cent of interviews expressed similar views about a church.

“Opinion is divided and many people remain tolerant of unpopular speech as well as distinctive dress and religious behaviour, but a large segment of the British population is unhappy about these subcultures,” Prof Voas told The Daily Mail.

Communities Secretary John Denham’s speech, made on Thursday 14 January 2010, agreed that while racial discrimination in Britain is disappearing – people from certain classes and community groups were now more likely to be at a disadvantage.

The BSA survey, which interviewed almost 5,000 people, said that 45 per cent of people questioned felt that diversity benefited Britain, however it claimed that only one in four Brits feel positively about Islam.

It is believed that the findings from this study will increase concerns that religious tensions are bubbling in Britain and Prof Voas claimed that many Brits believe that Islam undermines national identity.

Ian Fenn, who is a white British convert to Islam and a head teacher at Burnage Media and Arts College, has recently been appointed to prevent violent extremism in Manchester schools.

He told Manchester Mouth that Islam enhances national identity in Britain and said that extremists had both alienated non-Muslims and Muslims.

“Islam as described by fanatics and extremists undermines humanity not just national identity!” said Fenn, “In Britain we have a tradition of faith being deeply personal and for me practicing Islam here in England enhances and enriches our national identity.

“Being a good Muslim, is to uphold the cherished values of tolerance and acceptance that distinguish the recent history of our nation.

“Some Muslims loosely interpret the faith in ways that alienate non-Muslims and Muslims alike. Listening to them, one would think that Islam was a religion of hate…The prophet (pbuh) said that love was at the heart of our religion – this is an inconvenient truth for the preachers of hate on both sides.”

Prof Voas also cited that Islamic extremism and conservative values, which some people associate with Islam, were part of the reason that Brits were becoming less tolerant towards Muslims. However, he said that there has always been hostility to new minority groups in Britain.

“Fears of extremist violence clearly play an important part,” said the professor, “Muslims are now a large minority (about 2.5 million people) in the country, and there is always some hostility to new groups (as in the past with Jews or the Irish).

“Because many Muslims are socially conservative – for example in attitudes to the appropriate roles and dress of women – they can be criticised from the left as well as the right.”

Brits are scared that extremist Islam is dividing the nation and corrupting young people but how real is the threat from fundamentalist Muslim fanatics?

Fenn, who has been dubbed as an ‘Anti-Extremism Czar’ by the media, admitted that he had never met anyone who was attempting to radicalize children but said that communities needed to work together to protect all youngsters from extremists.

“Young people can be corrupted by anyone and anything if we as educators do not build in resilience into their thinking so that they reject those who may seek to radicalise them,” the teacher said.

Speaking to MEN he said: “We need to be aware of opportunities to promote community cohesion. If we have got communities that are stuck together like glue and interacting, then there is no room for people to come in and radicalise our youngsters.

“We have to be wary of people trying to radicalise youngsters. I have not come across any of them yet. But the best way to do that is to have the confidence to use English, RE and citizenship lessons to talk to encourage debate.”

As part of his new role, Fenn is drawing-up a programme of discussions, community work, drama productions, and youth forums – which aim to fight prejudice and tackle extremism in 175 Manchester schools.

“Schools do not exist in a bubble. They are in the real world. We can’t shy away from talking openly with our pupils about suicide bombing and terrorism. We can’t sweep it under the carpet,” he said.

Fear of Muslim extremism has lead to the emergence of Anti-Islam groups, which are arguably as equally extreme as the religion they are objecting about.

Once such organization the English Defence League (EDL), which formed in 27 June 2009, protested in Manchester on Saturday 10 October 2009 and 50 men were arrested in connection with the protests.

The EDL is an organisation that claims to be against Islamic extremism in Britain and disputes that it has any connection between it and fascism or the BNP.

It asserts that it welcomes people from any race or faith into the organisation and that it was planning a peaceful demonstration in Manchester city centre.

However, several local groups called for a ban on the EDL rally after earlier protests by the group in Luton and Birmingham resulted in serious public disorder and dozens of arrests by police. At the Birmingham event more than 90 arrests were made.

On these occasions, as in Manchester, it was not clear whether the violence was started by the EDL or by the individuals and organisations that oppose it.

On 29 November 2009 Manchester Mouth reported that angry Mancunians had taken part in a vigil at Southern Cemetery, Barlow Moor Road, to protest about the fact that Muslim graves were damaged for the third time in two months.

Extremism, or fear of it, seems to be breeding extremism in Britain and targeting specific social-groups for blame harks back to the thinking of Hitler’s Germany.

Fenn said: “I find anti-Islamic groups very unBritish and an affront to all that I hold dear in English culture. My father did not fight in the Second World War so that a lack of tolerance could prevail back home.

“Britain is not just the home of modern democracy, it is the home of tolerance, freedom of speech and freedom of religion. Groups that seek to shift the ground from racism to cultural imperialism will fail as our culture is inextricably linked to the culture of the world both past and present.”

It is worrying that British society seems to be becoming less tolerant when its cultural heritage is so great.

Lets hope that we are not pointing the finger at one specific group because we are dissatisfied with wider elements of society.

We need to be building better understanding and stronger links between communities and not judging people purely on their religious beliefs.

3 Responses

  1. […] growing concerns about the rise of anti-Muslim views in Britain. To read more about this subject click here to see an earlier article by Manchester […]

  2. Exactly the info I needed for my Muslim dating blog. Thanks!

  3. “some…lossely interpret the faith”. But I read no comdemnation of those who kill in the name of this religion. I don’t have a problem with someone’s faith. I have a problem with those who see their religion as above all the rest and those who maintain silence when those in their faith kill many in the name of their God. One time a Pakistani moslem asked me if I knew who was causing all of the world’s problems? His reponse was that it was the Jew who was causing the problems. How do you expect me to respond to such a statement? By saying “oh golly ghee”,? I felt as if I was in front of an SS guard from the NAZI era. If they want us to be tolerant of them, they should be tolerant of us.

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