Q: The Germany-based far-right organization PEGIDA is seemingly gaining momentum across Europe and its call for resistance against the so-called “Islamization” of Europe is appealing to more Western citizens who join its demonstrations and advocacy programs. Why should there be an organization whose objective is to purge Europe off its significant Muslim minority and spread fear and hatred against Muslims?

A: The honest answer is that there shouldn’t be a group aiming to purge Europe of Muslims, because there is no need for a purge of Muslims from Europe. I’ve noticed that a lot of the far-right groups in Britain and Europe attempt to make themselves appear like reasonable people and groups by citing that they would like an ‘Australian-Style’ immigration policy which is based on vetting everyone wishing to emigrate into their nation based upon skills and only taking people from other nations with skills that there is a drastic shortage of.

My reply to them is to point out that any political party who puts its policy to control immigration at centre stage or as its flagship policy will inevitably attract racists looking for a banner to unite under. Please note I’m discussing anti-immigration and anti-Muslim sentiment here as the same issue because there is a significant overlap between them. When discussing PEGIDA, please let me stress that when they came to Newcastle, there was a counter-demonstration which I was a member of, and we outnumbered them by many hundreds of counter protesters. If I recall correctly, the anti-fascist counter protest managed to attract five times the number of counter-demonstrators that PEGIDA managed to attract.

Q: Please tell us about your counter-demonstrations against PEGIDA and your experience with the people in your community who voiced their opposition to the xenophobic and racist ideology of PEGIDA. I noted that even the German Chancellor Angela Merkel had said the leaders of PEGIDA have hatred, prejudice and coldness in their heart. What’s your take on that?

A: Whenever there is a march of the far-right in the UK, there is often a counter protest organized by the left. It’s our way of letting whoever they are ranting about know that they do not speak for us as either a nation or a community, so that they know they are still safe and that we still consider them to be part of our society.

The far-right is a reactionary group of people who see a problem and decide to scapegoat whoever is within eyesight without looking at the root cause. The Islamophobia and anti-Immigration rhetoric is the 21st century equivalent of Nazi Germany scapegoating the Jews, or English workers blaming the Irish workers for taking their jobs. We still have to listen to right-wing politician’s claim that climate change is God’s punishment for homosexuality every so often. In relation to the comment about Nazi Germany, PEGIDA is a German organization; and to protest them, several German people came over to England to be part of the counter-protest.

We on the political left however have a very different way of expressing ourselves as a group. Our counter-protest wasn’t a group of people shouting abuse at PEGIDA; it was more akin to a carnival. We had people from all faiths, many different political parties and trade unions. As we marched, there were people playing music, people waving flags associated with the anti-fascist movement as well as various left-leaning groups. Trade unions flew banners as the German protesters marched with a German flag.

Q: As you’ve noted in your writings, Islamophobia is a hate crime. It’s discrimination against a large group of people on the basis of their faith and way of thinking. However, the problem is that Muslims don’t constitute the mainstream majority in the West, and that’s why they’re easily harassed and offended in different ways. Is it possible to counter this unfair sort of hate speech and protect the Muslims?

A: As a people, the Europeans hate Islamophobia and the far-right does not speak for us, but the far right shouts with such loud a voice that it often appears that they do. I saw two newspaper reports recently which for me summarized the effect that this has had and why it is underserved. One was a report about the large numbers of Muslims who feel less safe now than a few years ago because of the way the media portrays them and how the far-right are lapping this up, and the second was based on a survey which revealed that the majority of British Muslims view their British citizenship as an integral part of their personal identity.

Whenever I am confronted with hate speech about Muslims personally by people in front of me, I frankly and bluntly tell them that they are wrong. I have Muslim friends and colleagues and the actions of an extremist minority just aren’t something I see in those people. The Muslims I know are by-and-large friendly, good natured and charitable people.

Q: Official figures indicate that from the total terrorist attacks that take place in the West, only an insignificant number are perpetrated by the Muslims. Studies released by the START database show that between 1970 and 2012, only 60 out of approximately 2,400 terrorist attacks in the United States were carried out by the Muslims. But the corporate media continue cheering on the claim that Muslims are terrorist and fundamentalist. Why is it so?

A: Living in Britain, I’m not that qualified to discuss American politics, but the best answer I can give is to take it as encouraging the scapegoating that the far-right instinctively does to any group that appears different and assume it is the cause of society’s problems.

The media has a vested interest in this because the major media companies are owned by people who are massively richer than the average citizens, so they aren’t going to write many articles in newspapers which portray the gulf between the wealthiest and poorest citizens as a major problem, because this would encourage the notion that there must be a significant redistribution of wealth and that action must be taken to address this. Ergo a scapegoat must be found to deflect the blame to; most commonly this means immigrants are portrayed as damaging to our countries, and if a group of immigrants can be portrayed as terrorists, then they are the most vulnerable target. With Muslims we scapegoat them as terrorists, with Romanians we scapegoat them as thieves and welfare scroungers, with the Polish community we scapegoat them as immigrants who come to Britain to take British jobs from British workers. None of these groups deserves it.

Q: What’s your reaction to the renewed arson attacks on the mosques, Muslim communities and even the homes of Muslim immigrants in Britain, France, Germany and elsewhere in Europe and North America? Muslim immigrants have come to the Western nations in search of better lives, peace and security, but it seems that they’re being deprived of these virtues. How do you see the new wave of assaults on the personal freedoms and civil liberties of Muslims in the West?

A: My reaction to arson attacks on mosques is one of utter condemnation. I’ve seen the banners asking for no more mosques to be built carried by far-right protesters and I’ve seen news reports about acts of terrorism carried out by far-right protestors in retaliation to acts of terror perpetrated by Muslims. I detest the idea that a group or community inherits the blame for the actions of one member. An act of terrorism is a disgusting thing, but political violence in retaliation is still violence and is still terrorism in itself. The only difference is that the English Defence League and Britain First have never been called ‘Christian Terrorists’ by the media.

Even if the demand for no more mosques to be built was ever acted upon – although in Britain I want to stress that I am absolutely certain that this would never happen, Muslims would still worship as a group, as would Christians if they were told that no more churches were to be built. The only difference would be the environment that it took place in. A building which was previously used for another purpose could be used in its place and worship would quite easily take place there instead. Although I am definitely not a religious person, I do still find religious buildings which were built for use as a place of worship quite attractive so I like walking past churches and mosques as I find the designs artistic and think that the effort to make them stand out adds something positive to our communities, so I would hate to think that members of any religion were prevented from building new mosques or churches to worship in.

Q: There are many prominent Muslim scientists, artists, scholars, authors, entrepreneurs and academicians who have made great contributions to the progress of their societies in Europe, the United States, Canada and elsewhere. However, it sounds like the Western public is not aware of positive role these big Muslim names living next to them are playing. Can we expect the media to bring the impact of the Muslims to the attention of the Western public?

A: The western world is becoming increasingly culturally secular, even to people who consider themselves to be a member of a religion. I personally do not know the religion of the majority of prominent people who are making a cultural contribution to British society, and I do not think it would change my opinion of them: it’s just not something I’ve ever been that interested in. We seem to have a ‘live and let live’ approach to things like that now. I’ve never noticed the western media to openly discuss the religion of an artist, musician, academic or entrepreneur. Even when these people are speaking openly to the public they tend not to discuss their religion unless it’s specifically relevant to what it is they are discussing.

That being said, I am aware of some of the scientific progress being made collaboratively between western and Middle Eastern nations. My own academic background is that of health sciences and one thing I noticed when reading reports about research into infectious disease is how often research was being done between hospitals in nations on opposite sides of the globe, including the culturally Christian and culturally Muslim nations. So no matter how badly it seems our leaders are getting on, and no matter how vocal hate groups of various nations are about members of different nations and faiths, scientists plough through this and succeed in working together to improve the quality of life for all the worlds citizens. Where our leaders view each other with suspicion, our scientists accept each other openly and accept it as fact that they are working together for a common cause and that they are partners in improving the quality of life of everyone in the world, not just the lives of people in their home nation.

Q: The terrorist group ISIS is promoting itself as an Islamic organization. This is while almost all the Muslim leaders have denounced the atrocities committed by this cult, its rigid ideology and its distorted interpretation of Islam. Does the Western public differentiate between the pure philosophy of Islam and the horrendous actions of ISIS as a group that simply carries an Islamic banner?

A: For the most part, yes, we most certainly differentiate between them. Shortly after ISIS began promoting itself, the Muslim community of my hometown marched through our streets with banners reading ‘not in our name’.

I think after such a public rejection of them, it is safe to say that most British people accept that ISIS and the overwhelming majority of Muslims stand apart from each other. There is no way that I’m ever going to be convinced that my Muslim friends have anything whatever in common with ISIS.