Islamophobia – racism’s final holdout

Islamophobia – racism’s final holdout

By Louise Nousratpour and Roger Bagley

Morning Star, 7 February 2006

Peace campaigners condemned the “racist” mass media and accused ministers of applying “double standards” against the persecuted Muslim community yesterday. The comments followed government pressure on police to carry out mass arrests of Friday’s protestors in London against offensive caricatures of the Muslim prophet Mohammed. At the event, some extremists threatened “another July 7”, while others dressed as suicide bombers.

Home Secretary Charles Clarke seized on the furore to demand that MPs back his repressive anti-terror Bill when it returns to the Commons on February 15. Mr Clarke urged support for a ban on “glorification” or “encouragement” of terrorism, which was thrown out by the Lords. He also hinted that police will shortly make a wave of arrests following the weekend demonstrations.

While rejecting the extremist protest, peace campaigners joined British Muslim leaders in condemning media “double standards” and its “mirage argument” – claiming to champion freedom of speech while attacking a minority group already facing persecution.

The cartoons, caricaturing Mohammed as a terrorist and a killer, were first published by right-wing Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten last September. The images have since been reprinted in many European countries, such as France and Norway, by other right-wing titles.

The entire episode is taking place at the height of Western aggression in the Middle East, with the ongoing war and occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan joined by recent threats from the international community to cut funds to the Palestinian government over the recent election of Hamas.

Campaigners branded the action “racial stereotyping”, likening the images to those of Jews by anti-semites and nazis in the early to mid-20th century. Respect national secretary John Rees said that Islamophobia has become “the last acceptable form of racism”. He said: “If this were a cartoon of a hook-nosed Jew counting money, the liberal press would be, rightly, full of angry editorials denouncing the racism of such images.”

“This means that the overwhelmingly poor and Asian Muslim population of Britain are now on the receiving end of discrimination that would be unacceptable if it were targeted at any other ethnic or religious group”, Mr Rees said.

Arab League secretary-general Amre Moussa joined appeals for an end to violence, but he said that Muslims are not treated equally. “Anti-semitism is a crime, anti-Islam is freedom of expression”, he argued.

Labour CND activist Walter Wolfgang, who was infamously manhandled out of last year’s party conference because of his anti-war protests, also condemned the appeal for “heavy-handed” police action. The former Jewish refugee from nazi Germany stressed that Britain is not on a “level playing field” because of its ongoing aggression in the Middle East. “Britain has got to make amends with the Muslim people in this country by withdrawing the troops from Iraq and Afghanistan”, he insisted.

Stop the War Coalition convenor Lindsey German made clear her disgust at the protestors’ slogans, which called for the killing of those offending Mohammed. But she ridiculed the government’s threat of prosecution over “incitement to murder”, saying: “It is rich coming from this government, which is busy committing murder on the streets of Iraq and Afghanistan as we speak.”