In 1997 the Commission on British Muslims by the Runnymede Trust confirmed the existence of widespread prejudice and discrimination against Muslims in Britain. Their report, ‘Islamophobia – a challenge for us all’ (1997), launched by the Home Secretary at the House of Commons, proposed sixty recommendations, one of which was the desperate need for awareness and understanding of the true meaning of Islam. This was confirmed by the Commission’s second report on Islamophobia launched in 2004.

Sadly, since then we have seen misunderstanding and misrepresentation of Islam and Muslims increase in society to the point where today it appears to be an acceptable form of denigration. Muslims are depicted as unreasonable, intolerant, violent violators of human rights and anti-women. These popular images come down from age old myths and fears, are fuelled by political and economic interests and reinforced by the actions of extremists on the margins of society.

These perceptions breed suspicion, hatred and even violence. We believe that these misconceptions must be tackled both within wider society and amongst Muslims themselves – if we are to see the development of a Britain at ease with its diversity. We believe that through awareness and understanding of one another we can create better relations and develop respect and harmony in our society. IAW is an opportunity for us all to come together in addressing the threats posed by misunderstanding one another.

There are around 2 million British Muslims all of whom consist of diverse communities, representing many backgrounds. They can be found in every field and walk of life, and do play their part in contributing to Britain’s wealth and culture. Indeed, Islam is very much a part of everyday life for many Britons. Islam guides its followers to respect, preserve and strengthen all that is good in British society. Furthermore, it helps them inculcate the inner strength to resist and change those aspects of themselves and society which cause harm.

Islam is not a new religion, it is not specific to any people or region. It is a message to all to live in service of their Creator, to live a life that is good and that helps those around us. It is the action of submitting to God and attaining peace carried by Prophets that has formed the core message from God at all times to all people. There should be no compulsion or coercion in matters of faith and religion,the freedom to hold dialogue however is key to understanding the commonalities between people – respect of differences is an essential part of this paradigm.

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