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Teetotal Muslims ‘to blame’ for pub closures – Tory peer

A former brewery boss and Tory peer has blamed the closure of “many” British pubs on the rise of non-drinking Muslims communities. Lord Hodgson also said cut-price alcohol in supermarkets was a problem for the industry.

Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbots told the House of Lords he feared the closure of pubs in “areas of Nottingham, Leicester, Manchester, Leeds and Birmingham” is due to “the increase of the Muslim population who don’t drink.”

The peer further claimed the industry was declining at an unprecedented rate.

“Twenty-five years ago, the company of which I was a director would have operated probably a dozen pubs in Kidderminster, the home of the carpet trade. The carpet trade has gone and there are three pubs left,” he said.

The rate of pub closures in the UK was found to have accelerated to 31 per week, the real ale group CAMRA said earlier this year, with 3 percent of pubs closing in the six months leading up to August.

A government study, however, does not draw links between areas with a high density of non-drinking Muslims and the rapid closure of pubs.

In the Pub Companies, Pub Closures and Pub Tenants Report, published on November 28, said “the sight of local pubs up for sale, or simply being turned into housing or supermarket convenience stores is a familiar one up and down the country.”

AFP Photo / Oli Scarff

Lord Hodgson also blamed low-cost alcohol available in supermarkets, as well as “inexorable regulation,” for the rash of pub closures.

“The reasons for closure may be portrayed as rapacious owners increasing rent wishing to profit by turning pubs into houses or corner stores, but the tide is running against the ordinary pub,” he added.

Muslim community leaders reacted with incredulity to the peer’s comments.

Nasima Begum, from the Muslim Council of Britain, said the allegations were both “surprising and disappointing.”

“What next? Muslims to be blamed for a fall in pork scratching sales?” she said. “We have come to a stage where it is easy for those in prominent positions to make their points at the expense of Muslims.”

Lord Hodgson’s comments come as figures released by the monitoring group Tell MAMA (Monitoring Anti-Muslim Attacks) found the number of faith-related hate crimes in London rose 23 percent in the year to October.

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British Muslims are increasingly targeted as a way for disillusioned citizens to air their grievances. Indicative of the climate is the launch of the “Taliban Hunting Club” fashion range by neo-Nazi far-right group Britain First.

A recent study also showed that British Muslims are 70 percent less likely to find paid work than their Christian counterparts.

Fiyaz Mughal, the Director of Faith Matters, speaking about Lord Hodgson’s claims, told the Independent that his comments were “ridiculous.”

“It is quite ridiculous to blame Muslims for the closure of pubs when in fact the consumption and marketing of alcohol has also changed over time. What is also clear is that some pubs have been successful and others have not been able to generate customers and clients,” he added.