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Communities: Young Muslims

Volume 762: debated on Thursday 25 June 2015


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what measures they have put in place to counter the impact of Islamophobia and stigmatisation on young Muslims.

My Lords, this Government are committed to preventing anti-Muslim hatred and the stigmatisation of young Muslims. We are continuing the extensive community engagement of my predecessors to help to understand the concerns faced by Muslim communities, including working with the cross-government Anti-Muslim Hatred Working Group and Tell MAMA in order to record and monitor anti-Muslim hate crime.

I think the Minister for her reply. Have the Government considered celebrating differences by marking occasions such as Eid al-Fitr and applauding actions such as those by Muslims in this month of Ramadan in forgoing eating all day in order to share an evening meal with those who cannot afford it? Could we have more celebration and less condemnation?

My Lords, this Government and the Prime Minister himself have done extensive engagement in celebrating some of the occasions in communities of different faiths, in marking those occasions that are so important to them. In the Prime Minister’s message for Ramadan, he talked—as indeed did my honourable friend Greg Clark in the other place—about the peaceful nature of Islam and the phenomenal contribution of Muslims to this country. I have been one of the lucky recipients of several invitations to Big Iftars, and that coming together of different faiths has been a great success.

My Lords, I pay tribute to the extensive relationship and engagement that my noble friend has with British Muslim communities, but is she aware of the Government’s report on the review of Prevent and other reports that identify Islamophobia as a driver of radicalisation? In light of the Government’s determined effort to defeat extremism, when can we expect to hear from them about the rising phenomenon of Islamophobia in a keynote speech? What is the Government’s policy response to tackle it?

My Lords, I return the compliment to my noble friend, who over the years has, not just in her words but in her actions, worked hard to tackle Islamophobia in this country. She has been a great support to me in some of the multifaith work that we have done. My noble friend makes a good point about the problems of the disaffection and isolation of young men. Those problems do not apply just to the Muslim community but can apply to young men and women in all areas of this country. The Government have put £8 million into supporting adults in learning English, which is a very good measure in terms of tackling the isolation and disaffection that young people may have. One of the projects that I visited in Rochdale was a Near Neighbours project, which has done phenomenal work in bringing together not just different faiths but different age groups and different aspects of the community. It has created some very peaceful outcomes in terms of that community’s well-being.

My Lords, amid reports that the Government have started to disengage with Muslim grass-roots communities, does the Minister think that it is helpful for the Prime Minister to say that some Muslims “quietly condone” radicalisation—apparently we are sitting at home, quietly condoning it? Or does the Minister agree with the Home Secretary’s most senior counterterrorism adviser, Charles Farr, who was quoted in the Telegraph the other day saying that there is a danger of oversimplification, given that there are 2.7 million Muslims in the UK, and just a few hundred have joined Daesh—so-called ISIS? Who does the noble Baroness think is right?

My Lords, I agree with both of them. The Prime Minister is not saying that Muslims are a problem but that Islamic ideology is a problem that needs to be tackled, and Charles Farr was making a similar point.

My Lords, is the Minister aware that ever since 9/11 there has been a huge increase in the number of attacks on Sikhs and Sikh places of worship in cases of mistaken identity? The most recent case was a machete attack on a young Sikh dentist in south Wales, which was described on “Newsnight” as Islamophobia. Does the Minister agree that hate crime is hate crime against any community, and that it should be tackled even-handedly, irrespective of the size of the community?

My Lords, will the Government consider convening a meeting of the different faith communities to encourage collaboration around combating Islamophobia? Perhaps that could draw on the experience of the Community Security Trust, which works with both Jewish and Muslim communities to protect places of worship—a very good example of interfaith collaboration.

My Lords, I have a long history of work with interfaith communities, which is well established back in my home area of Trafford. I am pleased to be able to tell the noble Lord that I am already engaging in that work.