Hate crimes in the UK are on the rise because the government "tends to try to appease the far right by adopting some of their positions," according to a prominent Muslim scholar.
Anas Altikriti, CEO of Cordoba Foundation, told Anadolu Agency that the British Muslim community has sensed that "there is a tangible rise in far-right and far-right groups that are now in government."
His comments came after the publication of statistics Thursday by the Home Office that showed Islamophobic hate crimes in England and Wales skyrocketed last year with Muslims the most targeted group for the year ending March 2022.
The number of religious hate crimes recorded by police that targeted Muslims was 3,459, a 42% increase since last year.
"The figures that came out today only go to confirm the actual feeling that is quite tangible and quite powerful throughout the Muslim community we have been sensing, and seeing, observing ourselves, the rise in anti-Muslim sentiments and actions as well as the narrative, the overall overriding narrative, whether it be official, whether it be through society -- that the classes Muslims as almost second class citizens on the margins of society that are deserving of being the targets of the overall rise of far-right and nationalist sentiments," said Altikriti, whose group tries to bridge "the gap of understanding between the Muslim World and the West."
"It's something that confirms those kinds of feelings. I think that the actual figures are far greater than what we saw will be it that they do confirm that Muslims are the targets of the, you know, the greatest anti-religious sentiments expressed against any religious minority. The fact is that this is something that we've been warning about for more than a decade now," he said.
GOVERNMENT TRIES TO APPEASE FAR-RIGHT
Altikriti underlined that "there is a tangible rise in far-right and far-right groups that are now in government, only 15 years ago, were almost banished to the sidelines of societies."
He said: "They were not entities, they didn't really matter in any election or any. But now, less than two decades on, we see that many, throughout Europe and even here in the UK. They have a huge impact on not only government, as we saw in Austria, as we see in Sweden, as we see now in Italy, for instance, but also on the narrative itself, because what happens is that with the rise of far-right sentiments, the sort of mainstream right in our case, for instance, the Conservative government tends to try to appease the far right by adopting some of their positions. So all of a sudden, you have the far-right, albeit, not actually in government, but their positions, their viewpoints, their sentiments, their statements are actually being adopted and espoused by the actual government," he said.
RISK OF DISSEMINATION OF 'THE VERY FABRIC OF BRITISH SOCIETY
"What these figures go to show is that we are at risk of the sorts of dissemination and the breakup of the very fabric of British society and it's something that we must pay serious attention to. I think that the Conservative government is espousing policies that the Conservatives of 25, 30, 35 years ago would have never even imagined, and particularly the kind of narrative in regards with the immigrants and the minorities and the like," said Altikriti.
"It's something which is absolutely disgraceful in terms. I mean, only two days ago, we heard the Home Secretary no less," referring to Home Secretary Suella Braverman's recent remarks that it was her 'dream' to see planes taking off to carry immigrants to Rwanda," he said. "And as I tweeted, an immigrant daughter of immigrants, who expressed that her dream, no less, her dream - not a goal, not her ambition - her dream was to see a flight take off, carry immigrants off to the other side of the world."
"It's something that is quite shameful to be perfectly honest. I mean, our position, today, we're talking about the figures in regards to the anti-Muslim sentiments but in all, whether it be anti-religious anti-minority sorts of statements whether it be the sorts of nationalist overtures that belittle anyone else it's something that we see every single day," said Altikriti.
Altikriti said far-right examples were in pockets of societies before but they are now "in the corridors of government and that's something which is extremely dangerous."
"This replicates the kind of images we're seeing across Europe. Again, I mean, we take, for instance, Sweden, which only a few years ago was celebrated by the entire world as being one of the most open, one of the most tolerant, one of the most accepting and welcoming countries and societies to minorities from across the world," he said.
"Now, where the far-right is a serious player and influential player in the makeup of the government. We've seen Italy for instance, elect a virtually fascist prime minister. So, what we're seeing in Europe is, unfortunately, being replicated across to the UK and even further beyond. You know, in the past we saw how the tide of Trumpism actually reflected on many of our policies here in Europe."
"And that hasn't gone away. I mean, despite the fact that (Donald) Trump isn't the (US) president, but Trumpism is very, very much present," said Altikriti.
He added: "And I think when we're asked about the reasons for this, I think that it's a cumulative success of failures of governments or governments on economic issues and social issues, on intelligence and the such and the constant usage of in this particular case of Muslims as a viable and acceptable target to explain or to justify these governmental political economic failures.
"So this, with the accumulation, bit by bit, we've arrived at a stage where in the UK we are facing one of the greatest cost of living crises -- that is in living memory since World War II-problem, and we're looking at a recession the likes of which we haven't seen, and with it, is this narrative about, how minorities should shoulder the blame."
"So once again, we're not learning from our mistakes, unfortunately."
- MUSLIMS ARE PART OF BRITAIN
"The first thing I would warn against is to ask the victims to solve the problem of the culprits. The abuser in this particular case, you know, someone who's racist, a government, which is Islamophobic -- I mean, what can I do?" said Altikriti.
He said he finds it "extremely difficult to engage in discussions whereby the Muslim community is discussing building fences around the community trying to isolate ourselves -- we'll secure ourselves with CCTV cameras with high fences with bodyguards and as such, that's not what we want as Muslims."
"We are British citizens. We want to be part of Britain or we want Britain to be part of our religious institutions. We want to accept our neighbors into our mosques. We want, you know, to have the discussion about the problems and the challenges that face all of us, whether it be about the cost of living, whether it be about energy bills, whether it be about government budgets, and taxation and all of that. We want -- we are part of all of this and we want to be part of the general discussion. The issue of racism, whether it be Islamophobia, whether it be anti-Semitism, whether it be any other targeting of any other minority religious or otherwise, it's something that we all have to work together in order to solve."
Altikriti said the problem is not only Islamophobia but other religious groups targeted by hate crimes.
"I can't solve only my problem as a Muslim. So, the problem of Islamophobia was for instance -- my Jewish neighbors are being attacked, or my Hindu neighbors are being attacked, or the such or someone is trying to stir up problems such as we're seeing in Leicester and Birmingham and as such, between Hindus and Muslims," he said.
"This is something that we must work all together in order to confront and I'm not saying here about us as minorities, I'm talking about all British people because as we saw with the civil rights movement in America whether it be 30,40, 50 years, 200 years, there will come a time when the culprits when the perpetrator of these discriminatory crimes will have to come to account.
"And we don't want our children to pay the price for the ignorance and arrogance and stupidity of people amongst us today," he said.