Some harrowing news in light of the recently passed International Women’s Day.
The majority of Muslims physically attacked, harassed or intimidated because of their faith are women, according to the first results from the UK’s official helpline for victims of Islamophobia.
More than 630 incidents were logged during the first 12 months of the helpline, launched in an attempt to quantify the scale and nature of anti-Muslim violence in Britain.
Some of the most egregious attacks recorded include a family being forced from their Nottinghamshire home, a five-year-old girl knocked over by a hit-and-run driver and a Somali lady who had dog faeces placed on her head by a white man while shopping in south London.
The attacks, collated by the helpline, Tell MAMA (Measuring Anti-Muslim Attacks), show that Muslim women were targeted in 58% of all incidents.
The majority of physical assaults committed in the street were on women wearing Islamic clothing, with most victims describing the nature of the attacks as seemingly “random”.
High-profile female targets have included communities minister Lady Warsi who was threatened online by an English Defence League (EDL) member and journalist Jemima Khan, whose 14-year-old son received anti-Muslim comments on Twitter.
Of the perpetrators, the majority were subsequently found to have had links to recognised far-right groups such as the British National Party (BNP) or the EDL. So far, information provided to the helpline has led to the arrests of 21 far-right EDL supporters, with more than 40 incidents reported against EDL leader Tommy Robinson alone.
Members of the BNP or EDL were involved in 54% of all incidents, of which three-quarters were committed by men. The average age of perpetrators were between 21 and 30.
The results follow a report by think-tank Chatham House which identified a considerable Islamophobic sentiment in the UK, detecting a “wide reservoir of public sympathy for claims that Islam and the growth of settled, Muslim communities pose a fundamental threat to the native group and nation.”
The majority of incidents received by the helpline related to what it described as “abusive behaviour” with 74% of recorded incidents occurring online. However, experts agree that even non-violent incidents have a profound adverse impact on peoples’ lives.
Fiyaz Mughal, co-ordinator of Tell MAMA and director of non-profit group Faith Matters said he was “shocked” by the amount of racial hatred they had detected in their first year of monitoring, particularly online.
Mughal, a former advisor to the deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, added: “We are calling on police and politicians to do more to tackle this shameful wave of fear and prejudice. From the internet, to the workplace, the street and even houses of worship, too often Muslim women and men are becoming the target of vicious, sometimes violent, abuse.
He added: “Recent history shows us what happens if we allow our fears to run unchecked. Demonisation of ‘the other’, misguided beliefs that Muslims are somehow a monolithic block, unchecked lies that Islam is a violent religion or that British Muslims wish to abuse white girls must be challenged.”
He is now calling on police forces to drastically improve their recording of Islamophobic crimes. At the moment just two forces, the Metropolitan police and City of London police, currently record anti-Muslim crimes separately. Mughal also wants the Home Office to take over monitoring of online hate and far-right groups from the Department for Communities and Local Government.
Other areas that the Muslim community believe could be improved include more prosecutions against online-based hatred.
“The police frequently fail to take victim statements, fail to appreciate the terrifying effects of these incidents upon women and vulnerable children. Few police forces even bother to record Islamophobia as part of their reporting systems. More training is needed at a time when police are facing budget cuts; we need more leadership too from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) which, unhelpfully, has talked about fewer rather than more social media prosecutions,” added Mughal.
During 2011 2,000 hate crimes were recorded against different faiths in England, Wales and Northern Ireland by police with officers at the time admitting that they were unclear how many were against Muslims because separate figures were not recorded.