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The gatekeepers of public debate can’t patronise away anti-Muslim bigotry

The gatekeepers of public debate can’t patronise away anti-Muslim bigotry

ECHR: Sharia law is incompatible with democracy and human rights
United Kingdom (UK)
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All-party parliamentary groups do not have any power to change the law or government policy. But this report has been uncritically embraced in much of Westminster and by some local authorities and public bodies. The government has rightly rejected it, but it still seems set to have a significant influence on the rough parameters of acceptable public debate on Islam for years to come.

The government could do many things to address bigotry against Muslims and other religious groups. It could tackle the division of British schools along faith lines. It could face up to religious separatism and start enforcing the same laws for everyone, regardless of religion. That might also make an impact on intra-religious sectarianism (an issue which the APPG's report deliberately ducks). But these things are difficult and have a less obvious, gradual impact. It's easier to try to tell people what they may or may not say.

It's now routine for those in positions of power to try to patronise bigotry away. Last year the NSS took up the case of Justice Haddon-Cave – a judge who  the Parsons Green bomber on the peacefulness of Islam and encouraged him to study the Koran in prison. The authorities responded to this blatant violation of judicial neutrality with a collective . Haddon-Cave's comments were ignored on the grounds that the British public must be lectured by their apparent betters on how wonderful Islam is. And he was allowed to  his remarks almost verbatim as he wrapped up the trial of a man convicted of attempting to kill the prime minister.

Meanwhile it's becoming increasingly difficult to get on a train, turn on the TV or go to a bookshop without being patronised on Islam. A recent poster campaign has told members of the public 'it's not just offensive – it's an offence', reinforcing the message that the British public cannot be trusted to treat their fellow citizens who happen to have a different religion with respect.