Justin Welby: Caricature and prejudice can lead to 'violent persecution and genocide'

The Archbishop of Canterbury has warned of the dangers of caricature and prejudice, saying they can "lead to violent persecution and genocide" in a statement on Holocaust Memorial Day.

The Archbishop of Canterbury's commments will be regarded as an attack on Islamophobia as he warned against "caricature, simplistic criticism and ridicule that leads inexorably to the dehumanising and degrading treatment of others".Facebook / Justin Welby

He urged followers to "take responsibility ourselves", particularly in speaking out "against those who would diminish others through caricature and cheap political point scoring".

Justin Welby's comments will be widely interpreted as a call to resist Islamophobia, as he urged followers "not just to remember but to act". In a post on his Facebook page, Welby said the memorial day was "a searing indictment of our collusion in the evil of others through our silence".

"In the world we inhabit, the searchlight of an active media illuminates the dark recesses of the caricature, simplistic criticism and ridicule that leads inexorably to the dehumanising and degrading treatment of others," he wrote.

"History shows clearly that, unopposed, this can lead to violent persecution and genocide.

"But we're not called to be passive observers and silent accomplices to discrimination. We can take responsibility ourselves."

Welby directed his strongest exhortations to those with influence.

"We all need to show true leadership and integrity when given the power to shape the opinions of others. It's incumbent upon those who take political office or those who have influence in the media, to speak up for the defenceless and the marginalised, and not to pander to popular prejudice."

Welby's comments come after David Cameron announced Muslim women could face deportation if they don't learn English. Yesterday, chief inspector of schools, Sir Michael Wilshaw, said he fully supported head teachers who instilled a ban on the face veil. He warned that schools would be marked down by Ofsted inspectors for "inappropriate wearing of veils".

As well as in "public discourse", Welby also said we must take responsibility for prejudice as individuals and families.

"Firstly, we need to admit our own culpability in not standing up for others. On this poignant day of reflection, let's confess our own unwillingness to say and do what is right because we are fearful of what others might think of us," he said.

"We must also take responsibility for our children," the Archbishop added. "In our homes and in our schools, we must encourage young people to stand up and to speak out against the everyday abuses of prejudice and discrimination in the street and the playground."

He concluded: "Don't stand by. Speak up, speak out and let us not bear false witness through our silence and inaction."