Protesters at Saturday’s Stand Up To Racism demonstration in central London (Picture: Guy Smallman)

The Tories’ ramped-up Islamophobia has real consequences for Muslims in Britain.

Communities secretary Michael Gove announced last week that three Muslim organisations with “Islamist orientation and beliefs” will be assessed under a new definition of extremism.

This includes the Muslim Association of Britain (MAB), Cage and Mend.

The Tories claim these Muslim groups “subvert democracy and deny other people’s fundamental rights”.

In reality, they are part of a mass movement calling out Britain’s support for Israel’s genocide.

Meanwhile prisons in England and Wales are also disproportionately targeting Muslims with pepper spray.

Ministry of Justice data, obtained by advocacy group Maslaha, showed in 2022 34 percent of those that had Pava spray used on them were Muslim.

That’s despite Muslims making up 18 percent of the prison population.

In comparison in 2019 Muslims made up just 18 percent of those targeted by pepper spray.

And in Glasgow a 13-year-old Muslim boy was repeatedly stabbed in Queen’s Drive on 8 March after leaving a mosque.

Gove’s attacks in the Commons are a top-down attempt to stigmatise and demonise Muslims.

The groups listed will suffer a “robust” assessment and have government funding and engagement stopped.

MAB is one of the organisers of the national marches for Palestine alongside the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Stop The War Coalition, Palestinian Forum in Britain, Friends of Al-Aqsa, and Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.

A joint statement from those groups said, “The government has used the protests we have organised in response to Israel’s genocide against the Palestinian people as a core rationale for the need to redefine extremism.

Successive government minsters and pro-Israel voices have attempted to demonise those protesting as hate-mongers, Islamist mobs and antisemites.”

It added that the Tories are “pursuing an Islamophobic agenda which seeks to confine the Muslim community to the margins of democratic society.”

“We reject the description of members of our coalition as extremists who cause division and harm to the Muslim community,” it said.

“No one should take lessons in what is in the interests of Muslims in Britain from a man with a track record of support for anti-Muslim policies, associations and discourse.”

In a separate statement MAB said, “The definition represents nothing more than political posturing, a cynical manoeuvre aimed at appeasing the hard-right base of the Conservative Party.

“This announcement underscores Michael Gove’s true intention to politicise anti-extremism and escalate community tensions in anticipation of a general election.”

Mend said, “Labelling groups that are critical of government policy as ‘extremist’ is a lazy and convenient way of avoiding dialogue.

“It is a tactic more suited to stifling dissent in authoritarian repressive regimes than used to silence those exposing government complicity in the Gaza genocide.

“Gove himself has a long track record of Islamophobic views and associations. He is a founding member of the Henry Jackson Society which promoted an anti-Muslim agenda over many years and led the government’s role in ‘The Trojan Horse’ affair.”

This was when the government falsely alleged that an extremist takeover of schools in Birmingham was under way.

“Given his own ‘extremist’ credentials, for him to be lecturing others as to who is or is not an extremist is an example of rank hypocrisy,” Mend added.

Both organisations challenged Gove to stop hiding behind parliamentary privilege and make the claims outside parliament.

Another statement by Cage said the new definition is “a continuation of the decades- long strategy aimed at inciting and exploiting fears against Muslims”.

The aim is “to build an authoritarian and repressive infrastructure that suppresses any dissent that is not licensed to Whitehall”.

The statement was cosigned by Palestine Action, Black Lives Matter UK, Sisters Uncut, Copwatch Network, London Student Action for Palestine, Netpol, Workers for a Free Palestine, No More Exclusion and the Palestinian Youth Movement.

The groups defiantly say they will “continue to engage in political activity, protest, and direct action for the public good”.

Gove’s move is an attempt to scare Muslims to undermine the Palestine movement and whip up racism in the run-up to an election.

Gove used parliamentary privilege, which protects MPs from legal challenges, to make the speech listing the groups.

The 450,000 who marched at the last national demonstration for Palestine in the face of ramped-up Islamophobia and smears demonstrated that the movement is not going away.

The best way to stand up against the Tories’ attacks is to escalate the movement for Palestine—and show that their bigotry won’t scare anyone off.

Join the demonstration for Palestine in London on Saturday 30 March, 12 noon central London

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