Reports

We Fear for Our Lives”: Offline and Online Experiences of Anti-Muslim Hostility

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We Fear For Our LivesThis report looks at the impact of on-line and off-line experiences of anti-Muslim hostility on British Muslims in the UK. It highlights how some male Muslims are failing to report in Institutional anti-Muslim prejudice for fear of being targeted and for fear that they will be seen to be ‘weak’ in the eyes of their families and lead to instability in their employment. It also highlights how key ‘trigger’ events such as the murder of Lee Rigby, the actions of the so-called Islamic State and the Rotherham grooming scandal, have led to multiple impacts within Muslim communities. It also re-affirms the link between racist language and anti-Muslim prejudice, with one female respondent saying, “actually, 9 out of 10 times, the abuse I receive is based on race. Although they use religion because I am identifiable as a Muslim woman, the words that come out of their mouth have to do with race, so the race and the religion are tied up together in people’s minds.”

Participants in the report talk about the disturbing nature of verbal and physical violence that they have suffered. A convert to Islam, Sophie (who wears the Hijab) stated, “a guy walked past, he spat at me and called me a ‘Muzzi’. Also, I’ve been called dirty Paki, (I am white), as a group of guys walked past and shouted ‘speak English in our country.’ I was looking at a map and did not say anything.”

Some participants also warned about the risks of radicalisation, especially for young people as a result of suffering online and/or offline anti-Muslim hate crimes. One respondent, Hamza, noted that “anti-Muslim hate crime has affected Muslims. This is why Muslims are going to Syria. This is why they support ISIS. When people experience Islamophobic abuse, they will be easily radicalised. They feel weak, lonely, isolated, and rejected from British society. This is when these hate preachers pick them up and brainwash them. If you are constantly victimised, you are weak.”

This report also highlights an impact on Muslim communities which is rarely discussed and which includes changes in dress style so that attention is not drawn to the visibility of their faith. The report highlights the issue of Muslims managing their Muslim identity on-line and off-line with the aim of reducing future abuse. It states that, “the reality of anti-Muslim hate crime creates ‘invisible’ boundaries, across which members of the Muslim community are not ‘welcome’ to step. The enactment of both virtual and physical boundaries impacts upon ‘emotional geographies’ in relation to the way in which Muslims perceive the spaces and places around and outside their communities of abode. Rather than risk the threat of being attacked, either off-line or on-line, many actual and potential victims opt to change their lifestyles and retreat to ‘their own’ communities.

TELL MAMA 2014/2015 Findings on Anti-Muslim Hate

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Some of the key findings in the TELL MAMA 2014/2015 report include:

– 548 verified incidents (of 729) reported to Tell MAMA (a number that broadly reflects the 2012/2013 report when 584 incidents were recorded).

– A decrease from the previous report but that reflects the documented spike of incidents following the murder of Drummer Lee Rigby in 2013/2014.

– A majority of incidents took place online (402 out of 548 or roughly two-thirds).

– In the online sphere, a vast proportion of incidents were abusive in nature and nearly a fifth involved threats.

– The ‘memeification’ of anti-Muslim hate online was traceable with a high number of ‘anti-Muslim literature’ incidents.

– Nearly a fifth of service users reported repeated offline incidents of anti-Muslim hate.

– Again, Muslim women (48 incidents) suffered more offline incidents than men (40 incidents) in the dataset.

– 44 offline cases noted that the individual, at the time of the incident, wearing traditional Islamic clothing during and the perpetrators’ were overwhelmingly white male.

– 7 offline cases involved ‘extreme violence’, 21 constituted assault and 29 involved threats.

– Damage to Islamic institutions and personal properties totalled 15 incidents.

– The evolving data coding and approval process carries a good degree of confidence from CFAPS’s analysis.

Another worrying trend highlighted in the analysis detailed how global acts of terror – whether in Paris, Copenhagen or Sydney – inspired or at least fostered an environment where individuals felt justified in spreading anti-Muslim hate either on social media or on a street-based level. In the wake of the Paris atrocities, the number of reported incidents for offline and online incidents increased.

How sections of the media portrays these incidents potentially (and often unintentionally) may inspire part of the backlash. The report does not call for censorship but engagement with media outlets to promote a more nuanced understanding of ‘terrorist motivations in order to reduce the impact of coverage relating to, or even fuelling, instances of ‘cumulative extremism’.

The dataset offers a window into the levels of anti-Muslim hate in 2014 and the early parts of 2015. But a perceived mistrust of police in sections of Muslim communities means underreporting of incidents remains a consistent problem.

Our working agreement with the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), agreed upon in March 2015, to share data on anti-Muslim incidents (with police forces that record Islamophobic crimes under a separate flag) will continue to strengthen our reporting in the months ahead.

Rotherham, Hate, and the Far Right Online

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coverThis report looks at the impact of the Rotherham Grooming crisis and the impacts that it has on the rhetoric of far right groups like Britain First on-line. We analysed the lexicon of anti-Muslim hate through the Britain First Facebook page soon after the release of the damning report on the Rotherham grooming scandal.

What is sadly clear is that the comments left on the Britain First Facebook page on the day of the launch of the Rotherham grooming report, showed that comments and language ranged from outright prejudice against individuals of Pakistani heritage, to prejudice and hate against Islam and Muslims. The report also showed the trajectory of that hate and how it turned into wanting to take action against mosques and Islamic institutions. This report makes for sombre reading as to how national events can lead to the targeting of whole communities and innocent individuals who happen to be of the same racial, cultural or religious heritage.

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‘Anti-Muslim Overview, Analysis & Cumulative Extremism’, July 2014

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teeside infographicThis is the latest anti-Muslim overview report which independently analyses the TELL MAMA data covering May 2013 through to the end of February 2014. The report looks at a number of trends on anti-Muslim prejudice and highlights a range of specific areas which include the fact that visibility, (by wearing the Hijab or the Hijab and the Niqab), may play a role in the targeting of individuals. Furthermore, the over-representation of Far Right sympathisers in anti-Muslim prejudice is highlighted once again. The report also covers the period after the murder of Lee Rigby and the anti-Muslim hate crime spike that took place after the murder. Lastly, the report should be read in conjunction with these links which provide more context on our work. The links can be found here, here and here.

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The Centre for Fascist, Anti-fascist and Post-fascist Studies at Teesside University, independently analysed Tell Mama’s anti-Muslim incident data for 2013/2014.

Some of the key findings include:

– Tell Mama recorded 734 self-reported anti-Muslim incidents between May 2013 and February 2014 (599 online and 135 offline) – a near 20 per cent increase on the same period last year.

– More than half of anti-Muslim incidents are committed against women (54 per cent); women were often targets because they wore traditional Islamic dress.

– The under-reporting of incidents remains a serious problem (nearly 5 out of six victims of offline and online abuse did not go to the police.)

– Three months after Lee Rigby’s murder, Tell Mama recorded 34 anti-Muslim attacks on properties (most notably mosques), incidents ranged from arson to graffiti.

– In May and June of 2013, there were 354 verified anti-Muslim incidents (281 online and 73 offline.)

– Two-fifths of all anti-Muslim incidents recorded by Tell Mama reported a link to far-right groups (e.g. BNP/EDL.)

Improving Data Collection

In the past year alone, we took great care in improving the robustness of our data collection, following recommendations from stakeholders in the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) and Community Security Trust (CST).

The CST’s wealth of experience in recording anti-Semitic abuse is a model that continues to inspire the Tell Mama project.

So what are the improvements?

– Before any data is categorised, senior members of Tell Mama staff independently verify that incidents are indeed anti-Muslim in nature.

– Caseworkers now require secondary validation (e.g. an additional witness in the case of offline violence or link to abusive online content.)

– Islam is not immune from criticism and these changes will ensure better support for genuine victims of abuse.

– Any ‘scraped data’ that is not self-reported (from third-party sources, newspapers or other online sources) is discounted.

– Improvements in flagging up repeat reports minimises double counting.

– Sub-coding of incidents (e.g. for online abuse) include ‘drop-down’ options for ‘anti-Muslim literature,’ ‘life-threatening abuse’ and ‘non-life-threatening abuse.’

– Offline incidents are categorised as ‘property damage’, ‘assault’, ‘threat’, ‘extreme violence’ and ‘anti-Muslim literature.’ That way, a distinction between online and offline abuse is clear.

Cases now face a secondary random check from a senior member of the Faith Matters staff. A failure to meet the above criteria results in removal, triggering a full audit of the preceding week of reports.

But we should not downplay the seriousness of online abuse, and the hurt it causes victims, as often, it is not solved by simply walking away from the computer.

For example, in the aftermath of Lee Rigby’s murder, a far-right supporter went to prison after posting online threats against Muslims. Others got in legal hot water after posting online threats about burning down mosques.

Bucking the Hate Crime Trend

Of the 734 self-reported incidents, 135 were offline in nature. Whilst most of the offline incidents were non-violent in nature (ranging from property damage to abuse), the 23 cases of assault and 13 cases of extreme violence are very alarming given the short data cycle. For example, the CST had no self-reported incidents of extreme violence last year.

The alleged perpetrators of offline abuse were overwhelmingly young (60 per cent were between 10 and 30 years old.) A fifth of alleged perpetrators were female.

Both stats broadly follow the CPS statistics on racial and religiously motivated hate crimes in 2012/13. Yet, the most alarming difference is the volume of women (54 per cent) self-reporting hate crimes.

The religiosity of female British Muslims makes them a target for abuse – nearly a quarter of female victims wear various Islamic clothing (e.g. hijab, abaya and niqab.)

Attacks against visibly dressed Muslim females may not accurately explain away the trend of hate crimes being opportunistic and situational. The data suggests that the alleged perpetrators of anti-Muslim hate crimes at a street-based level, are young white males targeting Muslim women, and that is a cause for concern.

More than that, the Tell Mama data bucks the trend of hate crime reporting, which the government figures show as falling.

The ‘Post-Woolwich’ Spike

Following the murder of Lee Rigby, there was a dramatic increase in anti-Muslim incidents during the week following his death when compared to the previous week, but the volume of incidents did reduce months later.

Various police forces noted a rise in anti-Muslim hate crimes during this period:

– Anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim hate crimes rose by a third (to 206 and 523 respectively) across all 32 reporting boroughs of London. A fifth of anti-Muslim incidents took place in May alone.

– The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) noted 71 incidents of anti-Muslim abuse five days after Rigby’s murder.

– Greater Manchester Police (GMP) recorded an increase of religious hate crime, which rose from 31 recorded incidents in April to 47 in May, it did not return to its average spike (of 25 incidents) until July 2013.

– The Birmingham Mail reported that religious hate crimes increased by 63 per cent (to 82 offences) in the West Midlands.

The Role of the Far-Right

– Two-fifths of all anti-Muslim incidents recorded by Tell Mama reported a link to far-right groups (e.g. BNP, EDL, etc.)

– Nearly half of online abuse is linked to the far-right, thanks to their use of the EDL’s NFSE (No f*cking surrender ever) slogan, avatars with neo-Nazi connotations, and hashtags linked to far-right groups.

– The neo-Nazi terrorist Pavlo Lapshyn, attempted to bomb several mosques, and murdered Mohammed Saleem.

– Another neo-Nazi, Ian Forman, plotted to bomb two Merseyside mosques in the aftermath of Rigby’s murder.

To quote from the report’s conclusion, “Various indicators suggest that anti-Muslim hate crimes notably rose in Britain between 1 May 2013 and February 2014.”

‘Maybe We Are Hated’: The Experience and Impact of Anti-Muslim Hate on British Muslim Women, November 2013

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This report, authored by Dr Chris Allen, Dr Arshad Isakjee and Ozlem Ogtem YounMaybe We are Hated Report for TELL MAMAg reviews the personal experiences and impacts of anti-Muslim prejudice on the lives of British Muslim women who have reported incidents through TELL MAMA. It is the first qualitative report that looks at a range of anti-Muslim prejudiced incidents and crimes and gives each person a voice. It also provides a unique set of insights into the impacts on individuals, rather than looking at victims of anti-Muslim prejudice through the lens of numbers, classifications and types of incidents.

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Anti-Muslim Hate Crime and the Far Right, June 2013

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English Defence LeagueThis report, authored by Professor Nigel Copsey, Dr Janet Dack, Mark Littler and Dr Matthew Feldman reviews the role and impact of Far Right and EDL sympathisers on anti-Muslim prejudice. The report underscores the heightened activity of Far Right English Defence League supporters on the Internet and through social media sources in the promotion of anti-Muslim prejudice or Islamophobia.

This report looks at the period of 2012/2013 and covers the first year of activities within TELL MAMA and the monitoring of anti-Muslim hatred across the United Kingdom. Key findings can be found through the link below.

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