British Muslims get puff pieces from AP
DEWSBURY, England - Under the shadow of a towering minaret in a Muslim enclave, veiled women stroll, shiny new cars line the streets and houses are being expanded.How ironic, given that I don't trust Gordon Brown from my end of the spectrum either. Aside from that, look at how the state has taken to funding Muslim schools, rather than most Muslim sources and reps raising and earning the funding themselves. On the public's taxes, I'll bet. Under Blair, it seems that welfare has come into play quite a bit (one reason why the UK is being called "the nanny state"), and this is but an example of how it's used to finance all the wrong sources.
It's an image of prosperity among British Muslims that didn't exist here before Prime Minister Tony Blair, who inspired hope of a better life among the religious minority when he came to power in 1997 — and kept many of his promises.
Blair's Labour Party successor, Gordon Brown, will face tougher challenges with the Muslim community when he takes over Wednesday as Britain's new prime minister. Amid deep discontent over the Iraq war and a security crackdown, many Muslims say they've become Britain's new outcasts. They feel betrayed by Blair, and are wary of a future under Brown.
Materially, Muslims remain Britain's most deprived minority, but official figures provide compelling evidence that Blair's tenure helped their situation, though the economy showed signs of improving before he took office.
Unemployment among Pakistanis and Bangladeshis, almost all of whom are Muslim, fell 4 to 6 percent from 1991 to 2001, census figures show, although Muslims in general still have the highest unemployment rate in Britain at 12 percent.
In Kirklees, the district in which Dewsbury is set, unemployment among the 30,000 strong Pakistani population was cut in half during the same period.
Britain's Muslims — who now number some 1.8 million — have benefited in other respects.
State funding for Muslim schools was introduced for the first time, a religious hatred law was introduced and a much reviled visa requirement that led to the separation of families was repealed.
Another sign of the new recognition for British Muslims came with election of the nation's first Muslim lawmakers in 1997. Blair had pledged to make the government more representative.
In Dewsbury, a former textile town where jobs dried up under Margaret Thatcher, the number of Muslims able to afford the pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, has soared over the past decade, said Kaushar Tai, a 48-year-old management consultant.
"You can only go if you can afford it and you are in good health," he said. "People are in good health and they can afford it, which he has to take some credit for."
But the gains have been tempered by fierce anger over Blair's foreign policy and new anti-terrorism measures that include tough restrictions on speech believed to promote terrorism.
Brown has promised to win back the trust of the British people. He has also vowed to reassess Britain's operations in Iraq, although a troop withdrawal is unlikely.
But he also has supported a call to hold terror suspects without charge for up to 90 days — an increase on the current 28 days — and advocated introducing phone tap evidence into British courts for the first time.
The moves are likely to inflame tensions in Muslim communities and could saddle Brown with the worries that dogged Blair during his leadership, no more evident than on July 7, 2005, when suicide bombers killed 52 commuters on London's transit system.
In Dewsbury, where the July 7 ringleader Mohammed Sidique Khan lived, the far-right British National Party has profited from the public's nervousness about its Muslim minority.
On a fiercely anti-Muslim platform that included the call for all Muslims to be banned from flying in and out of Britain on security grounds, the BNP managed to get its candidate in Dewsbury elected to the local council in 2006.
Blair, who famously carried around the Quran and made a point of opening his office to British Muslims, has denied his government conspired against Muslims. But many didn't believe him.
Like the July 7 bombers, they point to the Iraq war as proof.
Tai said the government underestimated the impact the war would have on Britain's Muslims.
"For Muslims what happens internationally has an impact locally," he said, underlining how fraternal ties in Islam cross borders.
One-time Muslim Blairites like Hanif Rehman, a 33-year-old father of two who lives in Dewsbury and works for British Telecom, turned their backs on Labour. Rehman remains skeptical of Brown — saying he has been sullied by his ties to Blair.
Brown has promised no retreat in the fight against terrorism. He talks of a "hearts and minds" exercise to freeze out extremists and promote moderation. Muslims say this amounts to little more than a social engineering project that risks further alienation.
"I don't trust him," Rehman said. "We're all on thin ice."
And I certainly wouldn't trust the BNP, since, as Melanie Phillips once pointed out, in spite of anything, they are a racist party hiding behind a legitimate concern being used as their sophisticated weapon. Come to think of it, how do we know that Muslims in Britain don't or wouldn't support the BNP? Fascists, after all, do see each other as otherwise perfect allies to each other in the end, don't they?
Another of the worst things about all this is that, as a commentor on this topic at What's Wrong With the World says:
Immigration has shot up since Blair came to power, only very recently has he come to question it. But immigration remains as high as ever, and he refuses to do anything about it.While immigration to Britain includes a lot of eastern Europeans, from Poland, for example, it wouldn't surprise me if there were plenty of Muslims making the move to the UK as well. That's why I wouldn't be surprised if the Muslim population now numbers at least two million, maybe more, and if the MSM were minimizing/downplaying it.
Blair may go down in history as being no better than most other politicians before him who allowed bad things to flourish under their tenures, and as another commentor at the above blog says:
Whatever good he may have done for the US is far outweighed by the harm he has done to Britain.What Blair did is almost like moral equivalence - he helped in an important war, yet at the same time appeased the enemy back at home.