PRESS RELEASE FROM I:CHANGE

Birmingham I:Change welcome the spirit of the speech made by the Prime Minister David Cameron at the Munich Security conference (5th February 2011) but are strongly concerned with the misguided attempt to singularly see Muslims through the ‘lens of security’, something which seems to be a continuing problem obsessing ours and other European governments.

Discussions have taken place in our communities and some feel that what started off as a speech on conflict prevention soon became heavily focused on multiculturalism, Islam and extremist acts carried out by those individuals who we agree wrongly use Islam to carry out unjustified acts of terror. We feel disappointed that the rise in convictions of right wing extremists who also use acts of violence was not particularly addressed nor given a similar spotlight.

We felt Cameron’s speech attempted to create technical differences in defining Islam, Islamist extremism and religion, but we feel the unsophisticated discussion only serves to benefit the rhetoric of those who believe that Islam and Western values are fundamentally incompatible.

We believe that the coalition government as also the former Labour government have consistently tried but ultimately failed to define what Britishness means simply because it is an organic identity based on shared values and principles. Principles, we hasten to add, that are neither at odds with the Muslim faith nor the democratic ideals of this society.

David Cameron’s speech simply reiterates the unhealthy obsession with the 4% Muslim population harmoniously living, peacefully working and happily integrated in Britain. Cameron’s challenge of establishing a benchmark of acceptable Muslims who believe in human rights for women and non-Muslims, equality before the law and belief in democracy reinforces our belief that government retains an unfounded suspicion of the private values and belief systems of Britain’s Muslim’s.

The irony in making these comments on the same day that the right wing EDL had chosen to march in Luton to protest against Islam is not lost on many from within both Muslim and non-Muslim communities. We cannot understand why David Cameron chose to echo some of the language of the EDL whose mission statement states that it is fighting not peaceful Muslims but ‘Islamic intolerance of Western cultures, customs, religions, politics, and laws’. Cameron may well firmly reject Islamophobia but his narrative of an individual’s pathway to radicalisation relates more to violent extremism rather than what constitutes the ingredients of citizenship.

Today, Dr Chris Allen from Birmingham I-Change said:

“We wholeheartedly welcome the debate initiated by the Prime Minister. However we reiterate our renewed disappointment at the constant belittling of British Muslim citizens who are viewed through the lens of security.”

“We reaffirm that Birmingham Muslims are actively working with our local communities and authorities to challenge all extremists, whether Muslim or non-Muslim. We also firmly subscribe to the benefits of and retain hope in a multicultural society – whether that is in Birmingham, Luton, Barking or any other British town or city.”

Birmingham I:Change is a loose collective of Birmingham professionals working within private, public and third sector agencies. I:Change’s mission is to challenge inequalities; promote human rights; and empower communities. I:Change aims to achieve this through campaigning, advocacy and promoting dialogue between the grassroots and statutory agencies locally. The group will be formally launching in mid 2011.

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