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London Muslims 'should play greater role'

Written by: Staff

LONDON, Oct 25: Muslims must play a greater role in London's politics and the economy to help stem prejudice and discrimination, a report said.

Muslims make up 8.5 percent of the capital's population, but are under-represented on its councils and among its workforce, adds the ''Muslims in London'' report yesterday.

Mayor Ken Livingstone, jointly presenting the report, said: ''Muslims in London face serious discrimination and prejudice.

''I hope this report will increase understanding between communities and combat some of the ignorance, prejudice and Islamophobia stirred up by some sections of the media.'' The report called for more Muslims to be elected to public office and to serve in public bodies like the police, the education system and the civil service.

The mayor's comments, backed by Muhammad Abdul Bari, general secretary of the Muslim Council of Britain, come at a time of alleged Muslim segregation and controversy over the wearing of the veil.

Livingstone accused the media of running a ''totally one-sided'' debate.

It reflected the Nazi propaganda of the 1930s when Jews were blamed for their own and society's ills, he said.

The mayor claimed that Muslims did not want to be separated from the rest of the community, but he accused employers and housing associations of having helped create such a situation.

Entering the veil debate, he said he would never ask a Muslim woman to remove her veil, just as he would not think of asking a Jew to remove his skull cap or a Christian to take off her cross.

''It is important that the role of the media in promoting negative stereotypes of Muslims and Islam is challenged,'' the report added.

It found that after the London bombings of July last year, individual Muslims experienced fear and feelings of suspicion, to the extent that some curtailed their normal routines.

Abdul Bari blamed Muslim unemployment and deprivation for tensions.

The report, drawing upon the 2001 Census and other sources, found only 42 percent of Muslims aged between 16 and 24 were economically active, compared with 60 percent of the general population.

The report said: ''Muslims in London face several barriers to employment, including educational underachievement, discrimination, lack of affordable and appropriate childcare, lack of suitable training, travel costs and housing costs.'' It added that there is ''significant under-representation'' of Muslim communities in all spheres of public life.

There is just one Muslim MP representing a London constituency, when proportionally you could expect six. Also, there are only 63 Muslim councillors, where proportionally there should be 169.


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