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Saturday, 29 September, 2001, 13:48 GMT 14:48 UK
Pledge to wipe out Islamophobia
Suleymaniye Mosque in east London
Mosques and Muslims have been targeted
Home Office Minister John Denham has promised that the government will act to cut out the "cancer of Islamophobia" in British society.

He told an anti-racism conference in London that the government condemned the attacks on British Muslims which followed the US terrorist strikes.

The real Islam is a religion of peace, tolerance and understanding

John Denham,
Home Office Minister
"We are making it abundantly clear that nothing in the events of 11 September provide any justification for racists in this country to attack, or discriminate against, or abuse Muslims," he said.

"Islamophobia was wrong before 11 September and is wrong today.

"The real Islam is a religion of peace, tolerance and understanding.

"That is why the government and the majority of British people find the unprovoked attacks on Muslims so repugnant - and why we must tackle the cancer of Islamophobia."

'Revenge attacks'

Mr Denham said the police were doing "everything possible" to protect Muslims from the growing threat of racist attacks.

Forces across the country were holding "extensive and regular" meetings with members of the Muslim community.

Metropolitan police officers
Police have promised to protect British Muslims from racist attacks
He said the government not only wanted to strengthen race relations laws and introduce tougher penalties for racially aggravated attacks, but also develop an improved dialogue with the Muslim community.

His comments echo remarks earlier this week by Prime Minister Tony Blair, who stressed that the international fight against global terrorism was not directed at Islam or Muslims.

The Muslim News said it had documented nearly 100 confirmed reports of so-called "revenge attacks", including mosques being fire-bombed and mothers threatened by gangs of men in front of their children.

Saturday's one-day anti-racism conference is being organised by UK group the Forum Against Islamophobia and Racism (Fair).

Media plea

During the day journalists and academics will examine the way Islam is treated in UK society.

Fair said the event was originally designed to explore the more subtle forms of Islamophobia, such as the way the religion is portrayed in the media, popular culture, education and political language.

Muslim students at a US college
Muslims in the UK and US say they feel under threat

But it said in the light of the US terror attacks, it will also explore some of the more "overt manifestations" of anti-Islam feeling being experienced by the Muslim community.

Mr Denham also called on the media to do everything it could to avoid promoting "a distorted or caricatured or prejudiced" view of Muslims or the Islamic faith.

Greater London Authority deputy chairman Trevor Phillips was also expected to speak at the conference.

He will call for new legislation to protect Muslims, and other religious believers, from violence and intimidation.

The BBC's Navdip Dhariwal
"Since the American attack Muslims across Britain have faced reprisals"
Shahid Malik
"There's a lot that needs to be done to reassure people"

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See also:

28 Sep 01 | UK Politics
Blunkett condemns Berlusconi comments
19 Sep 01 | Scotland
Scottish Muslims describe fears
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