London, July 4 : Shahid Malik, the first Muslim minister in any British government, has said that the plight of his community in Britain was such that many felt targeted like "the Jews of Europe".
He attacked the growing culture of hostility against Muslims in the UK.
Shahid Malik, who was appointed as a minister in the Department for International Development (Dfid) by Gordon Brown last summer, said it had become legitimate to target Muslims in the media and society at large in a way that would be unacceptable for any other minority.
"I think most people would agree that if you ask Muslims today what do they feel like, they feel like the Jews of Europe. I don't mean to equate that with the Holocaust, but in the way that it was legitimate almost - and still is in some parts - to target Jews, many Muslims would say that we feel the exact same way. Somehow there's a message out there that it's OK to target people as long as it's Muslims. And you don't have to worry about the facts, and people will turn a blind eye," The Independent quoted him as saying in an interview with Channel 4 to be telecast on Monday.
He said he himself had been the target of a string of racist incidents, including the firebombing of his family car and an attempt to run him down at a petrol station.
The interview would be aired coinciding with the third anniversary of the London bombings of 7 July. The Dispatches film "It Shouldn't Happen to a Muslim", presented by the writer and broadcaster Peter Oborne, examines claims that negative attitudes to Muslims had become legitimised by think-tanks and newspaper commentators, who use language that is now being parroted by the far right.
A poll to accompany the documentary highlights the growing polarisation of opinion among Britain's 1.6 million Muslims, who say they have suffered a marked increase in hostility since the London bombings.
The survey found that 51 per cent of Britons blame Islam to some degree for the 2005 attacks while more than a quarter of Muslims now believe Islamic values are not compatible with British values. While 90 per cent of Muslims said they felt attached to Britain, eight out of 10 said they felt there was more religious prejudice against their faith since the July bombings.
In 2002 Malik had narrowly escaped serious injury when a car was driven at him at a petrol station in his home town of Burnley. He said he regularly receives anti-Muslim hate mail at his constituency office in West Yorkshire, which has the highest BNP vote in the country and was home to Mohammad Sidique Khan, the leader of the suicide attackers who killed 52 people in London in 2005.
Attacking the British media for running anti-Muslims stories, he said: "It's almost as if you don't have to check your facts when it comes to certain people, and you can just run with those stories. It makes Muslims feel like aliens in their own country. At a time when we want to engage with Muslims, actually the opposite happens."