As Britain marked the tenth anniversary of the deadly 7/7 terror attacks on Tuesday that left more than 50 people killed in four separate suicide attacks in London the message was clear - the risk to life and limb remains a very real danger to Britons both at home and abroad.
This - said emergency service chiefs - had become increasingly apparent following the massacre on the Tunisian beach last month, that left 30 Britons dead and several others wounded.
But as Britain honored its dead - there remained another message which on Tuesday was not covered - an apparent increase in Islamaphobic attacks and general prejudice that has continued in Britain over the last 10 years.
Assistant Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain, Miqdaad Versi said there has been a deterioration in the view of Muslims in British society generally. And he warned that Islamaphobia is a “tough bigotry to deal with.”
“Islamaphobia has become more socially acceptable and we can see this with the fact that over 50 percent of the British population think the Muslims are a threat, 37 percent would support policies to reduce the number of Muslims in the UK,” he said.
Adding: “I think these types of attitudes are indicative of a growth in anti-Muslim feeling. And that seems to have manifested itself also in violence - according to the Metropolitan Police anti-Muslim attacks have gone up by 28 percent in the last year.”
Versi said he was worried for the future, especially now his wife was pregnant with their first child. He said that he was concerned as a British Muslim for the apparent continued growth in attacks against Muslims.
Where to lay the blame?
He said everyone he knew in the British Muslim community knew someone who had been victim of some form of Islamaphobia.
And it is not just members of the public that are responsible for the apparent growth in this problem.
Prime Minister David Cameron has been widely criticized after he last month warned there was a danger from Muslims that ‘quietly condoned’ the actions of extremists such as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
He argued that too many British Muslims who did not support terrorism ‘still share some of the extremists' anti-Western views and were prepared to ignore ‘angry young men and women’ who were being radicalized.
Cameron went on to accuse some Muslim community leaders of being prepared to blame the government and other authorities for the radicalization of youngsters rather than exposing the extremists who were involved in the radicalization of these youths.
But Miqdaad told Al Arabiya News: “It is very important for all politicians to be wary of the choice of words they use in terms of how it harms the community. Many people across the political spectrum, whether it’s from the Labour Party, Conservatives, Muslim groups or whether it’s from other faiths have been united in saying statements such as the one that the Prime Minister made during the month of Ramadan are not helpful.”
And Chris Doyle, director of the Council for Arab-British Understanding (CAABU) said Cameron’s comments might have caused more harm than good for the majority of law abiding Muslims in Britain.
He said: “I fear that his comments might well have worsened the situation, because he is still putting too much of the onus on the British Muslim community the whole time to reassure the entire public that they are collectively condemning every terrorist attack.
“I think that many in the Muslim community either have condemned them or do not feel that it is their responsibility to condemn them anymore than the non-Muslim community. And why should anyone associate them with so much aggression as we saw on a beach in Tunisia or attacks in Paris or Copenhagen.”
Chris Doyle warned that in the past 10 years there had been little progression by successive British governments to improve the situation for Muslims living in the country.
He said an inability to effectively engage with British Muslim communities left a ‘huge chasm between the establishment and these communities.’
He warned that British Muslims ‘felt largely alienated, cut off, and ignored.’
And he added that while many in Britain, and more widely in the West, were routinely demanding the condemnation by Muslims of the various acts of the likes of ISIS in the Middle East, there was a failure to understand “that all too often the British Government’s policy in the Middle East is seen by them to be extreme in one form or another.”
And he added: “There is still a huge gap and that has not really changed since 7/7 – if anything it has got worse.”
But Miqdaad Versi said there was still hope, largely thanks to the efforts at a local level to help educate people about the Muslim community and its faith.
He said such schemes as the open Mosque days, where people across Britain were encouraged to visit and meet with Muslims, had gone some way to help.
But even these events had fallen foul to some level of prejudice.
He said: “I still do believe that this country [Britain] is one of tolerance, respect, acceptance and of solidarity. When 7/7 happened we saw all communities joining, so we should not ignore the respect and tolerance that is a major part of British culture.”
But he said Islamaphobia was still a big problem, even in schools, adding that he knew of instances where parents had removed their children from religious education classes because the children were learning about Islam.
But on the flipside of all this, he said there were still instances that gave him hope.
He explained: “When we had a visit to my local mosque, a young Jewish girl said other children in her class had not been allowed to visit the mosque because the ‘Muslims are all terrorists or extremists or whatever.’
“But what was heartwarming was that she came with an open mind - she thought maybe Muslims were extremists, she didn’t know. But she changed her mind and said ‘you know what, I’m going to go back to my school and I’m going to tell them what these communities are really like.’ So these schemes really do make a difference.”SHOW MORE