Surge in hatred against Muslims 'could lead to UK Christchurch'

British Muslim MP Naz Shah demands government appoint Islamophobia adviser

Demonstrators against Islamophobia in Canada. A British MP has called for the government to appoint an adviser on anti-Muslim sentiment. Reuters
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The British government urgently needs to appoint an adviser on growing hate crimes against Muslims, similar to the anti-Semitic watchdog appointed three years ago, a leading British MP has said.

Opening a parliamentary debate on growing anti-Muslim feeling, Naz Shah said there had been a 600 per cent rise in incidents against Muslims in the past year.

Ms Shah warned that if the hate was not tackled it could lead to an atrocity, such as the attack in Christchurch, New Zealand, in which an Australian gunman killed 51 Muslim worshippers.

“If the government can have a working independent adviser on anti-Semitism, why three and a half years later on from the announcement of an independent adviser on Islamophobia is the government unable to move this forward?” she asked.

Ms Shah represents Bradford West, which has a large Muslim population.

She said that £7 million ($8.8 million) had “rightfully” been given by the government to tackle anti-Semitism but ministers had not announced “a single penny of extra support for British Muslim community”.

Ms Shah demanded to know what new government funding might be made available to “tackle the deep-rooted nature of Islamophobia”.

“Whilst inaction may mean nothing to the government, the danger of not acting will sadly be felt by British Muslims," she said. "Taking no decision is also a decision.”

Almost half of religiously motivated attacks were against Muslims last year, Ms Shaw told MPs.

“But every year these statistics are released and every year there is zero action taken by the government.

“The government's inaction to directly or indirectly tackle Islamophobia has become institutionalised."

Ms Shah, 50, also raised the Israel-Gaza war and the “collective punishment being endured by the people in Gaza”, warning that Muslims around the world might experience yet more violence.

“If we don't act now my warning to them is that Muslims in this country might also be faced with a Christchurch-style terrorist attack,” she said.

She raised the concern over growing anti-Islamic sentiment in Europe with the recent election in the Netherlands of the hard-right politician Geert Wilders, which “should worry us by letting extreme views enter the mainstream”.

Conservative MP Rehman Chishti, a practising Muslim and son of an imam, also asked why the government did not have an independent adviser on Islamophobia.

Mr Chishti told the House of Commons that there had been a rise in anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic hate crimes.

“Those two faith communities have year on year had the largest amount of hate and intolerance against them, and that is unacceptable,” he said.

“We must act to challenge that in a fair, inclusive manner, with regards to intolerance and hatred against all faith communities.”

An MP representing the constituency of Hammersmith in London, which is home to the Palestinian mission in Britain, said it was “outrageous” that its de facto ambassador did not have armed diplomatic protection.

“I have several times written to the commander responsible for diplomatic protection and I haven't had a response to those letters asking that diplomatic protection be granted to the mission, particularly at this very difficult time,” said Andy Slaughter, whose seat has 16,000 Muslim constituents.

“It is outrageous, frankly, when tensions are running so high, when any embassy in any other country would receive full diplomatic protection.”

But the Metropolitan police said on Thursday that during the Hanukkah holiday they would increase patrols to protect the Jewish community "who we know feel vulnerable at this time due to the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas" and the continued increase of anti-Semitic hate crimes.

"This means our Jewish communities will see more uniformed officers in their neighbourhoods as well as around businesses, schools and synagogues," a spokesman said.

Updated: December 08, 2023, 10:25 AM