It is not often that I agree or sympathise with the comments of Mehdi Hasan, a vehemently tribal Labour party supporting journalist previously working for the New Statesman and now with the Huffington Post UK.
But here, he talks about something I concur with – an issue which is not written about often due to the fear of public reprisal. It is an issue of real importance to be dealt with, if we are to maintain our strong credentials as a free and liberal society where journalists are not hounded due to their race, creed, belief and faith.
His article builds on the cross party experiences of high profile Muslims in political life and speaks of the daily pressure of anti-Muslim fear-mongering, negative stereotyping and abuse they suffer. He talks about his own experiences as a journalist and the pressure he faces to ‘conform’ and to not speak about ‘Islamaphobia’ for fear of being targeted by the constant barrage of negative comments.
Nobody should have to put up with what he and his family are experiencing. Regardless of whether we agree with his views or not, he is a citizen, a human being and a commentator who contributes to political discourse which is so important in underpinning our democracy with open and free debate.
As Liberal Democrats, we cannot continue to remain silent about this scourge of ‘acceptable racism’ – both silent and overt – taking place across Europe in a challenging post 9/11 world. It is surely not right to generalise and stereotypically label Muslims in public life who have something to say about our foreign policy, about extremism, racism, Islamaphobia or around the previously acceptable ‘war on terrorism’.
Incidentally, the English Defence League and the British National Party have also ‘adopted’ Islamaphobia as a more respectable campaigning position and one which they use effectively to recruit new members without ruffling too many feathers within polite society.
This is a Europe-wide phenomenon which must be seriously tackled with the same level of urgency as dealing with the racism heaped on the Roma Gypsy Traveller communities and with the evils of anti-semitism in Britain after the second world war.
As a Liberal Democrat, I am prepared to take up the challenge to speak more openly about the perils of the Mehdi Hasan experience …who else is with me?
Originally published on Lib Dem Voice 10th July 2012