“Contrary to popular opinion, polls show that the overwhelming majority of British Muslims are integrated, loyal, non-violent and eschew religious fanaticism. But the antics of a small cabal of British-born Muslim radicals – exemplified by the buffoonish Anjem Choudary and his Islam4UK group (now banned by the Home Office) – bring the entire Muslim community into disrepute in this country.
“Yet publicity-seeking hotheads like Choudary have been aided and abetted by a sensationalist press that often conflates the actions of an angry minority with those of the peaceful majority. Islamophobia now seems rife – in the words of one conservative commentator, ‘prejudice against Islam . . . is Britain’s last remaining socially respectable form of bigotry’.
“In 2008, researchers at Cardiff University revealed that more than two-thirds of the stories about Muslims published in the press since 2000 identified them either as a source of problems or as a threat – culturally, as well as in security terms. More than a quarter of the stories propagated the idea that Islam is dangerous, backward or irrational.
“This relentlessly negative coverage of Muslims and Islam must end. The liberal left has always defended minorities in this country – be they Jewish, black or gay. Today, it is Muslims who are demonised and bear the brunt of racist attacks. ‘I try to imagine how I would feel if this rainstorm of headlines substituted the word “Jew” for “Muslim”,’ wrote one leading Jewish commentator, in the wake of the 2006 row over the niqab, or Islamic face veil. ‘I wouldn’t just feel frightened, I would be looking for my passport.’ …
“Misunderstanding Muslims can only lead to further tensions and will make civic harmony impossible. This week, the magazine attempts to offer a more nuanced understanding of a range of contentious issues, in particular whether Islam is compatible with the values and principles of western liberal democracy. Meanwhile, British Muslims, alienated, frustrated and under siege, need our support.”
Editorial in the New Statesman, 11 February 2010