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October 06, 2006
Demonising Islam and Muslims
Editor of The Muslim News, Ahmed J Versi, expressed alarm Friday about a new pernicious wave of provocative attacks from both politicians and religious leaders to vilify Islam.
"In the last few months, the discourse has changed and it became an open season to demonise Islam," he says.
The warning came as leader of the House Commons, Jack Straw, provoked new controversy Friday by calling on Muslim women to expose their faces by lifting their veils. He said he tells those Muslim women visiting his surgery if they would uncover their faces.
Straw, whose constituency in Blackburn, north-west England, has a 20 per cent Muslim population, claimed that veils (niqab) made community relations "more difficult” and “barrier to community relations.”
“On the contrary, Straw’s action will exacerbate the fragile community relations. It will also send signals to Muslim women to keep away from his surgery leading to refusal to participate in the democratic process,” said Versi.
He added that this will once again be seen as attack on Islam.
Straw’s call came after controversy was provoked by the media on Thursday over a Muslim police officer being granted special dispensation to guard the Israeli Embassy in London because he felt “uncomfortable” and “unsafe” during the invasion of Lebanon where he has relatives.
On Wednesday, opposition Conservative leader David Cameron was also seen jumping on the bandwagon by vowing to break up what he called Muslim "ghettos" in British cities and calling only on Muslim schools to admit a quarter of their pupils from other faiths.
In what was seen as part of a campaign to replace Tony Blair as Prime Minister, Home Secretary John Reid earlier called on Muslim parents to spy on their children as potential terrorists.
The campaign against Islam reached new heights with the tactless comments made by Pope Benedict XVI during his visit to Germany in September.
"It should not be necessary to remind both political and religious leaders that it is vitally important to respect each other's beliefs and not to demonise them for ulterior motives," Versi warned.
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