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The presence of Muslims in Britain has been one that dates back to over a century.

Today Islam is the fastest growing religion in the history of the world.

Britain's UK 2001 census confirms that, with more than 1.6 million UK Muslims (2.7% of the population), Islam is now this country's second largest faith after Christianity.

British Muslims are a diverse and a vibrant community and they form an essential part of Britain’s multi-ethnic, multi-cultural society. Despite their contributions, however, British Muslims suffer significantly from various forms of alienation, discrimination, harassment and violence rooted in misinformed and stereotyped representations of Islam and its adherents - the irrational phenomenon we have come to as Islamophobia.

Islamophobia has now become a recognised form of racism. Furthermore, as with the inaccuracy of such terms as ‘anti-Semitism’, to describe the anti-Jewish hostility that developed in the late nineteenth century, ‘Islamophobia’ bears many similar hallmarks.

This intolerance and stereotypical views of Islam manifest themselves in a number of ways from verbal/written abuse, discrimination at schools and workplaces, psychological harassment/pressure and outright violent attacks on mosques and individuals.

The report on Islamophobia by the Runnymede Trust in 1997 is an illustration of the growing magnitude of the problem. The problem was again highlighted in January 2000 by the Interim Report of the Research Project on Religious Discrimination, commissioned by the Home Office and based at the University of Derby, and by the Parekh Report on The Future of Multi-Ethnic Britain in October 2000.

There is no shortage of studies on the existence of Islamophobia and recommendations on how to address this problem. However, bar a few exceptions, these recommendations are yet to be implemented by the Government. As a consequence, this has resulted in social unease and disturbances as we have seen in some Northern cities and towns, and increase in incitement to racial and religious hatred.

In the wake of September 11, in the UK alone, within a space of two weeks, there were more than 600 cases of Islamophobic harassment, violence and criminal damage.

Today Muslims and other minority multi-ethnic religious communities in the UK still remain unprotected against the offence of incitement to religious hatred.

The Forum Against Islamophobia & Racism (FAIR) was founded in 2001 as an independent charitable organization – our aim is to work towards establishing a Safe, Just and Tolerant Britain in which Islamophobia and racism have no place.

Although specialist in nature as an organisation in itself, FAIR emphasises on partnership and multi-agency working and to this end we work with organisations across numerous disciplines and with communities towards common purposes.

Click here for a full transcription of our Chairman's opening speech.