On Islamophobia

I don’t know why I feel driven to write this. Perhaps it is because I have one or two Muslim friends. More likely it’s because I’m getting fed up with what I see and hear going on around us all, and the responses from both the left and right wing politicians. There are some terrible things being done in the name of Islam.

In Nigeria, Boko Haram have kidnapped more than 200 girls and plan to sell them. Their justification was that apparently they are following Muslim teachings. I think I saw a quote where their leader claimed he was told to do this by God.

In 2013 al-Shabab was responsible for the siege of the Westgate shopping mall in Kenya and Mokhtar Belmokhtar's Signed in Blood Battalion seized control of a gas plant in Algeria in January 2013, with about 800 workers in it.

Both these sieges ended in a bloodbath - in Kenya, at least 67 people died while in Algeria, where the security forces stormed the gas plant after refusing to accept foreign help, about 80 people were killed in the ensuing shoot-out.

And don’t forget the murder of Lee Rigby in London.

You might be able to argue that these are terrorist movements without much religious justification.

But terrible things are being done in the name of Islam by Islamic countries too. In the Sudan, Mariam Yehya Ibrahim, 27, was condemned to die by hanging last month after she declined to profess she is a Muslim, the religion of her father. She was brought up by her mother as a Christian but the state refuses to recognise her marriage to a Christian, and accused her of adultery.

There have been international outcries about all of these events. But, strangely, I have not noticed much in the way of an outcry from the Muslim community itself.

I’m sure there has been some. Perhaps it has been largely ignore by the press, who have their own agenda.

But, until the leaders of Islamic countries and, importantly, their religious leaders start condemning these acts at the top of their voices, the lingering thought remains that this may actually be the way that all Muslims think, or wish to behave.

This view is not helped by groups that wish take over schools and run them according to Islamic principles, those that want sharia law in the UK, and those that want to segregate themselves from other aspects of UK society.

I’m English and proud of it. Although I’m not necessarily proud of everything the English and, more recently, the British Empire have done. But it’s a great shame that, if I raise a St. George’s flag in my garden, people will think that I’m a member of the English Defence League, and all that goes with it. I’m not, but I do understand why people would think I was. So I don’t do it.

In the same way, if you profess yourselves to be Muslims, especially by wearing Muslim dress, you appear to be allying yourselves with these terrible attitudes and actions. I’m not saying you actually do believe in these extreme views, merely that you will appear to.

As a friend of mine used to say “you are what you appear to be”.

So, Muslim friends, if you want to counteract Islamophobia, you should stand up and show which side you’re on. Shout "enough". Loudly.

But I worry that unless the leaders of Islamic states and ayatollahs are seen to be leading the condemnation of murder and rape carried out in the name of religion, you will be fighting a losing battle.