A new national effort needed to tackle the 'Muslim penalty' – report

Twenty years on from the first major report on Islamophobia, a new report involving University of Birmingham research recommends that all parts of society call out prejudice and discrimination experienced by and suffered by Muslims.

The report, produced by the Runnymede Trust with contributions from the University of Birmingham and a number of other UK universities, finds that Muslims face huge disadvantages in the jobs market, despite more Muslims going to university than ever – including more Muslim women graduates than men.

It calls on the government to adopt a new definition of Islamophobia as “anti-Muslim racism”, and recommends that society take more responsibility to call out and report hateful rhetoric and prejudice.

The new report ‘Islamophobia: Still A Challenge For Us All’ features contributions from 23 academics and officially launched in London today. Speakers include Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, who is also a contributor.

Dr Chris Allen, University of Birmingham and contributor to the report said:

‘Having worked with and supported numerous Muslim civic society organisations over the past decade and a half, it is they that have been at the forefront of the drive towards challenging Islamophobia.

‘Trying to do so in public and political spaces where the shadow of terror atrocities linger long and where growing anti-Muslim sentiment has been on the increase, has made the task even greater for them. My chapter in the report focuses on these challenges.’

The report covers subjects including Islamophobia, Gender; Impact on Health; Prevent; Job Discrimination; Anti-Semitism; Integration; and ‘Anti-Muslim’ movements across the world.

It makes recommendations for an independent inquiry into the Prevent counter-terrorism strategy; and demands that media regulators give corrections and retractions equal prominence to the original article.

In 1997, The Runnymede Trust published the first major report on the issue, called ‘Islamophobia: A Challenge For Us All’, which has been credited with popularising the term.

The report looks back on the last 20 years, which have seen British Muslims become the focus of policies framed around terrorism and the perceived threat to Western civilisation. Instead it suggests that we should tackle the barriers that hold Muslims back from fully participating in society.

Farah Elahi, Research Analyst, The Runnymede Trust, said:

‘The report sets out a clear definition of what Islamophobia is as a form of racism and sets out ten recommendations for what should be done about it.

‘The focus of tackling Islamophobia must be on the impact on Muslims or those perceived to be Muslim.

‘Current discussions on the topic completely negate the impact on any actual Muslims and therefore deny individuals opportunities to challenge this very real form of racism.’

Key recommendations set out in the report include:

• Tackling Islamophobia requires more responsibility by everyone to call out and report anti-Muslim rhetoric and prejudice. This includes teachers, neighbours and fellow citizens. All civil society organisations challenging other forms of discrimination should work more closely with groups challenging Islamophobia to form a stronger movement for positive change.

• Government should adopt the reports definition of Islamophobia as being anti-Muslim racism, to bring greater focus on economic disadvantages facing Muslims.

• There should be an independent inquiry into Prevent to eliminate discrimination and stereotyping. There should be a clear dividing line between the government’s counter-terrorism Prevent strategy and integration policies. Conflating the two areas weakens both.

• Media regulators must intervene more proactively in challenging discriminatory reporting, and corrections / retractions in print and digital media should receive equal prominence to the original article. Regulators should investigate the prevalence of Islamophobia and racism in the media.

ENDS

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Notes to Editors:

• The report ‘Islamophobia: Still A Challenge For Us All’ is available.
• Our report marks the 20th anniversary of the landmark report on Islamophobia which the Runnymede Trust published in 1997.
• The new report will be launched in the Smeaton Room, One Great George Street, Westminster, SW1A 3AA, at 2pm on Tuesday 14th November. Speakers include: Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, Dr Omar Khan, Farah Elahi, Miqdaad Versi.
• The Runnymede Trust is a race equality thinktank, established in 1968.
• The University of Birmingham is ranked among the world's top 100 institutions. Its work brings people from across the world to Birmingham, including researchers, teachers and more than 5,000 international students from over 150 countries.