Ian Birrell in the Guardian today pens a column about the three Christians who are set to take their cases of ‘religious persecution’ to the European Court of Human Rights and anti-Muslim bigotry in the UK.
The Daily Telegraph reports that papers will be lodged with the ECHR by lawyers acting for Shirley Chaplin, Gary McFarlane and Lillian Ladele, three of the four Christians who pursued claims of religious discrimination last year. The new case is said to dwell on their claims of double standards being applied to Christians by UK courts and Christianity being treated as a ‘thought crime’.
Birrell argues that shrill claims of Christians being a persecuted minority in Britain mask “the real religious bigotry that exists on our streets” – that affecting British Muslims. Birrell points to the example of a Muslim woman in Bristol who was threatened at knifepoint by a drunken man who told her: "Take the hijab off before I stab you. This is England, you are not allowed."
Citing the findings of a report published by Chatham House and authored by Matthew Goodwin, Birrell notes that “fewer than one quarter of Britons perceived Islam as not a threat to western civilisation; just a similar number could be found who thought the religion compatible with our way of life.”
Such figures correlate to the results from a British Social Attitudes survey in 2010 which found:
· 55 per cent of people said they would be 'bothered' if a large mosque was built in their locality while only 15 per cent said they would have similar concerns about a church being built locally
· Only one in four people in Britain feel positively about Islam
· less than half of those questioned in the BSA survey, 45 per cent, felt that diversity had brought benefits to the UK
Birrell notes the fuel to the fire that violent extremism presents to Islamophobia calling it “al-Qaida's lethal legacy – the daily drip-drip of distrust.”
And remarking on the publication today of a report by think tank, British Future, marking the 20th anniversary of the murder of Stephen Lawrence, Birrell notes that “even as prejudice declines against black people, there is acceptance of the unique problems now faced by followers of Islam.”
Birrell writes “…the highly charged and crucial debates over diversity, immigration and multiculturalism have been hijacked by this mistrust of Muslims”
“Whether on economic, security or societal grounds, we have a shared interest in bringing Britain's Islamic communities in from the cold. But at least recognition of a problem is the starting point to finding a solution.”