Xenophobia can manifest itself in many ways. It is a form of racism and in extreme cases it is virtually just a step away from supporting an apartheid system and even genocide. As far back as the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action in 1993, the World Conference on Human Rights urged all governments to take immediate measures. States were called upon to develop strong policies to prevent and combat all forms and manifestations of racism, xenophobia or related intolerance, by the enactment of appropriate legislation where necessary. The Declaration also notably led to the creation of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Manifestations are often built on myths and mischievous distortions of statistics that feed on the basest of prejudices and are nothing new to the right-wing press. The latest example was the alarmist front-page story in The Times this month under the contradictory headline ‘Rise in Muslim birth rate as families ‘feel British’’. “Almost a tenth of babies and toddlers in England and Wales are Muslim,” it extrapolated from a breakdown of 2011 census. “The percentage of Muslims among the under-fives is almost twice as high as in the general population. In an indication of the extent to which birth rate is changing the UK’s religious demographic, fewer than one in 200 people over 85 is Muslim.” The paper even went to the extent of quoting an expert as saying it is “not inconceivable” that Muslims who worshipped would outnumber practising Christians.
The story in The Times by its Investigations Editor, Dominic Kennedy, was copied by the Daily Mail. The bones were also picked out by Douglas Murray in The Spectator, the author of the recently published Islamophilia. He claimed it was right to speak on the report even if it was alarmist. It was “one of the biggest underlying stories of our time, and one which demonstrates an unprecedented change in the make-up of our country.” No mention was made that such sentiments are barely distinguishable from BNP propaganda.
On Channel 4 News, Murray from the infamously right-wing Henry Jackson Society, said the rise in the Muslim babies, will create problems in the future. “It is legitimate to ask what are the effects of that are going to be…because the children born today and the religious community they are born into, are likely to have a very significant impact in the country tomorrow.” The concerns he said, were of segregation in universities and he gave examples of the murder of the British soldier Lee Rigby.
Playing the racist card tends to coincide with the country heading towards a general election, often referring to the supposed floods of immigrants entering the UK and threatening British identity. This rhetoric conjures up much stereotyping and classical conditioning to create fears of anything that is seen as foreign. The discrimination is the irrational or illogical and leads to unwarranted suspicions where intolerances grows. The media would not have dared to discuss issues in these terms were they referring to other religious communities. Stigmatisation of Muslim babies and the implied threat to British society in the future just because they are born in a Muslim family is dangerous and this xenophobia should be of concern not only to the Muslim community but also the rest of British society.