What's on and where
The Muslim News
Contact The Muslim News
The Muslim News on your PDA
Back to index
Issue 239, Friday 27 March 2009 - 30 Rabi' al-Awwal 1430
The Muslim News marks 20th anniversary
When The Muslim News set out 20 years ago, its aspiration was to provide a forum for the community. “A medium by which to convey the progress of fellow brothers and sisters to draw experiences from others, to allow the community to grow and develop from within,” the first Editorial declared.
The founding aim was based on the premise that Muslims, like others, must vie in the market place to have their say in Britain’s multi-cultural society. “The integration to such a society does not depend on being subsumed by an unsympathetic majority,” read the initial warning.
At the time, Muslims were beginning to identify themselves as a faith group and this was accelerated by the publication of Salman Rushdie’s blasphemous book, The Satanic Verses. The controversy proved to be a landmark for Muslims becoming the centre of a national debate even though it was totally unbalanced, taking place with the community having no voice to determine the narrative. Islam started to be more visible and discernible. This led to the Government to take more notice of the community with several surveys and inquiries launched.
With the election of a Labour Government in 1997, Muslim schools became state-funded for the first time. Laws were also expanded to outlaw religious discrimination and incitement to hatred offences. Muslim groups were also given access to ministers and began to participate in the political agenda, including as peers in the House of Lords and the election of MPs. But while the community continued striving for a level playing field, events turned sour with the 9/11 attacks in the US. The consequence being that all Muslims became viewed through a prism of extremism and even potential terrorists and this has continued unabated since.
The Muslim News has documented issues facing the community for the past two decades and has remained faithful as a campaigning newspaper, run on a shoestring budget. We trust we have reflected the views of Muslims in Britain in addition to those around the world. In doing so, the paper has made many exposes and has never shied away from being critical, whether it be misguided Government policies, policing tactics, over-zealous media hostility or weaknesses and failures in the community. Any success or achievements in helping to influence events is due to staying resolutely independent and the devotion of its journalists, staff and contributors, most of whom offer their services freely.
While in 20 years, there have been many setbacks, there have also been tremendous advances in the community. The younger generation is now dynamic, politically aware, vocal and not afraid to speak out on the human rights abuses against British Muslims and their compatriots around the world despite the draconian way some anti-terror laws have been implemented. There are many voices with an ethical dimension that provide input and influence the political, social and economic agendas, while there remain many detractors. It is a job far from finished until Muslims are treated as equal and their rights duly respected. Even though Muslims are now integrated into the society and have become major contributors, they are not acknowledged and are still looked at as foreigners, second class citizens and a threat to the society, unlike other minority communities.
However, things have improved since we began publishing two decades ago but we still have a long way to go. But the Government needs to change its policies on Muslims and revisit its anti extremist policies and not criminalise the whole community.
“Let this case be a lesson to other victims of abuse in the war on terror. The path to justice is long and difficult, but as long as you remain steadfast upon it, you will get there in the end,” Babar Ahmad said after police admitted his assault following five years of complaints and litigation. The admission, which included mocking his Islamic faith, is a victory for justice but it had to be forced out of a reluctant Metropolitan Police, which appeared unrepentant refusing to issue an apology. “This was a lawful arrest of a man who was, and still is, a terrorist suspect,” a Met spokeswoman insisted even though Babar was released without any charge after being held for six days under anti-terror laws in December 2003.
The tragedy is how many other victims of injustice fall by the wayside, unprepared or unable to be so persistent in seeking legal redress. Ahmad only managed to vindicate himself through civil action. It is also certainly true to say that misguided actions of a tiny minority of unscrupulous police officers should not be allowed to taint the image of the police which work for the good of all society, but this would be best resolved by being honest enough to admit any wrongdoings in the first place. The fault is not only on the part of small numbers of individuals but on misguided laws and police tactics. Whether or not there remains institutional racism and Islamophobia within the ranks, the attitude and behaviour of the police towards Muslims at times appears to many as being Islamophobic.
Ahmad has suffered a long ordeal that remains far from over having been re-arrested under a US extradition warrant in 2004 and confined in jail ever since. He is currently awaiting an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights after again exhausting the judicial process in the UK. No prima facia evidence is required in Britain’s notorious extradition agreement with the US, which is another legacy of the Blair and Bush Administration that needs to be addressed by Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, and US President, Barack Obama.
In the meantime, as we have repeatedly argued, if Babar Ahmed has committed any crimes he should be tried in this country. His life and that of his family has already been destroyed like others in a growing litany of victims branded as terrorist suspects.
Click here to see the messages sent about the 20th Anniversary
Back to the front page
The Muslim News