Press release to counter the open letter published in the Guardian

Press release Thursday, 12 March 2015

Dr Musharraf Hussain Al Azhari has made a formal complaint to the Guardian for mentioning his name as a signatory on the open letter to the government entitled “British Muslims condemn terror laws for creating ‘witch hunt’ against Islam.” This was published on Wednesday 11th of March 2015. I want to make it absolutely clear that I did not at any point endorse this letter and therefore my name has been used without my permission.

I believe that the 4 million strong Muslims are patriotic and loyal citizens. No doubt that the young Muslim community is passing through a difficult phase of integration and development; Islamo-phobia, socio economic deprivation, global terrorism.  What is needed most is trust building between the Muslim and the wider British communities. I believe that the way forward for Muslims is to build trust with all public bodies, and convince the wider community that they truly care for Britain, and have their best interests at heart. Muslims must not feel a sense of victimhood because of current events. Instead let us present an image of excellence through behaviour, exemplary citizenship and positive contribution to socio economic life of British society.

To complain about Islamophobia is very well but it would be far more useful to raise Islam awareness and setup trust building groups that will organise events for bringing people together. This costs money, is the Muslim community willing to invest in its image?

What can politicians, public sector and press do?

Britain as the mother of democracy and is mature and liberal enough that it can cope with the extremists of all kinds; the far left and right of the political spectrum, as well as religious bigots and extremists. Here are three recommendations that could help to build trust;

  1. Play a fair game, not give in to extremist right wing elements. The robust anti-discrimination laws passed over the decades have created a zero tolerance for racism and anti Semitism. There is now a revulsion against colour or race-based bigotry; this is our social norm.
  2. Not to refer to criminals or violent extremists as Muslims. They are criminals, thats it!
  3. Encourage an open, honest and trust building exercise through dialogue through interfaith as well as multicultural activities.

The question is; are the Muslims ready to seriously engage in tackling Islamophobia? Are they willing to educate the wider community about themselves? This requires courageous and forward-looking leadership and an important partnership -a Trialogue involving the politicians, the media and the Muslims. Are we ready for this challenge?