An Insight into the Daily Star Exclusive on ‘Muslim Only’ Rental Ads by Steve Rose

A recent Daily Star “exclusive” is correct to highlight discriminatory “to rent” adverts but other elements of the story remain problematic.

The headline: “EXCLUSIVE: Fury over ‘Muslim only’ rental advert” is undermined paragraphs later by references to adverts that specify “Asian only” and “preferably Eastern European.”

Not only that, the sub-heading, “HOMES are being illegally advertised for rent to “Muslims only” yards from where soldier Lee Rigby was killed,” blurs the lines between individual guilt and collective responsibility.

Why should it matter if a Muslim decides to rent near the scene of that horrific murder? A murder widely condemned by a great majority of British Muslims. That sentence will only appeal to those who believe in collective responsibility for the crimes of Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale. It also sounds strangely reminiscent of those who barked that Muslims should not be building a cultural centre to be used by Muslims in the Park 51 furore. The suggestion was that people would be offended by a ‘mosque’ near the Twin Towers.

Later in the piece, it claims that property sites, (namely Gumtree), host hundreds of discriminatory adverts that favour Muslims. But caution is needed when viewing that figure in isolation.

On Gumtree, properties that specify Muslim in the “to rent” category total 51, but just under half are individuals looking for somewhere to rent. In the “to share” category, there are 218 listings, and 27 of these adverts include individuals looking to rent. A breakdown of the figures further demonstrates that some are repeat adverts as others date back to February. So it is fair to assume that either demand is not met or some rooms were successfully rented (but not removed from the site).

Yet, Gumtree’s rules are clear:

“13)  Is it lawful to advertise accommodation for a particular gender, age group, sexual orientation or religion?

Landlords and letting agents are not allowed to state any preference on race, religion, sexuality, gender, disability, etc.  This is not allowed on Gumtree.

Housemates are allowed to state a preference (excluding race) but need to explain why.  If an ad says ‘Muslim Only’ or ‘Women Only’ then it will not be allowed on Gumtree.   If an ad states ‘Muslim preferred – we are a Halal household’ then this is fine, as they’ve stated their preference and offered a justification.”

On this matter, section 33 of the Equality Act seemingly rules out such direct discrimination, but some argue about its ambiguity and lack of legal precedent in the housing sector.

According to the Daily Star article, this type of discrimination fuels a “ghetto culture” in towns and cities, which could help the far-right.  To further this evidence-free claim, a screenshot of one advert is included with the caption, “GHETTOS: It is feared this adverts will create ghetto culture.”

Due to a glaring oversight, the telephone number in the screenshot remains visible, and the English Defence League (EDL) were quick to notice, posting to their Facebook wall, “Anyone interested can ring the number supplied on the advert.”

Within a few hours, some of the comments from supporters went beyond simple offence:

 “Let them all rent in the same place. Then blow it up.”

“Cant rent them with a petrol bomb thrown through a window!”

“Fence the fucka off with the filth inside like the polish ghettos & starve the fvckas by making them self-sufficient, no dole. Let them kill & eat each other.”

It is perfectly understandable that some individuals would prefer to live with a person that shares cultural or religious ties, but a balance is needed when placing “to rent” adverts, as many are likely unaware of their breach of equality legislation.

Websites like Gumtree should do a better job of enforcing their own anti-discriminatory policies (but that is not always possible).

Otherwise, the anti-Muslim echo chamber will fill with fresh whispers of a two-tier system that benefits Muslims, as sensationalistic journalism potentially helps fuel this perception.

 Daily Star Gumtree Advert




EDL Daily Star 1EDL Daily Star 2


The Domino Effect: Hear A Victim’s Testimony on anti-Muslim hate & International Impacts

This is the actual text of a female victim of anti-Muslim hate, (Hasina), who was attacked in the last 72 hours. Her words are unaltered, save for a few grammatical changes.

“Having been born and raised in Bristol, I have many times throughout my life experienced hostility and racism, from being called ‘Paki’ in the street to having alcohol thrown at me.  It’s a reality that we have somehow accepted.  I remember the 1990 Iraq invasion and being pushed by a boy at school followed by ‘haha we are bombing you’ to more recent years when the world turned to topple Libya, I experienced yet again a rise in racism.  In fact every time there is aggression towards Muslims outside of the UK, I experience aggression from within the UK.  However, nothing could have prepared me for what happened Monday morning on the way to work.  Because of Israel’s bombardment of the mainly Muslim population of Gaza was I again being targeted?

I was walking through Cabot Circus approx. 9am, I had just seen an old work colleague and stopped to talk about the weekend. I continued to walk through Cabot Circus, just passed Pret A Manger, and a man came charging towards me with such aggression I thought he was going to punch me in the face. He was ranting and as I took my earphone out my ear so I could hear him, he lunged forward and he spat in my face. I also felt it fall onto my left hand.  I was in utter shock at what was happening.  I asked him what his problem was as he continued to aggressively rant at me and said something along the lines of ‘your people are killing’ and something about the ‘Middle East’ and ‘killing Christians’.   He spat at me again, it was terrifying I thought he was going to attack me at any second.  Then my defence mechanism just kicked in and I started to shout at him. Cowardly, he then started to back away and he tried to say something else but I shouted over him and continued to shout at him until he left Cabot Circus. I then shouted at the onlookers for not helping me and it felt like the whole of Cabot Circus was covered by my voice.

I cannot make sense of what he was saying or anyway reconcile in my mind why he attacked me, but it is clear that I was targeted because I am a Muslim woman.  I have read so many reports that hate crime towards Muslim women is on the increase in the UK but nothing really prepares you for what to do if it happens to you and how humiliating, terrifying and dirty it makes you feel.

I continued to walk to work, tears streaming, I just wanted to wash myself.  It wasn’t until I saw myself in the mirror in the toilet at work that I saw the spit all over my Hijab and it had seeped through to my underscarf too.  I immediately began to wash my headscarf, I was in a total state and very upset and angry at what had happened to me. A colleague was helping me and she was also very upset and shocked and when she had dried my scarf under the dryer I immediately washed it again.

I called the police and they said they would take a statement. I said I was happy for them to interview me at my place of work, after all I had done nothing wrong, why should I hide away?  This is a reality that happens to Muslim women on an ongoing basis, people need to know that this is real.

I rang ‘TELL MAMA’. They are a very valuable organisation that measure anti-Muslim hate crime attacks and they also followed up with the police and provide support if the police do not act.  The policewoman who interviewed me said they could have used the spit on the scarf as DNA. I have passed this information onto TELL MAMA and they are contacting the MET to suggest promoting and making Muslim women aware of what they should when  they are attacked.

I found out today that another Muslim woman was attacked in Bristol City Centre last week.  I feel quite strongly that the police along with Bristol City Council should be working with the community to make Muslim women aware of the real threat that is now unfortunately a reality. Perhaps Muslim women should carry a spare scarf so they can have a clean one should they be attacked. I would also suggest, f possible, that Muslim women do not travel alone even in the daylight as these cowardly men prey on what they perceive to be vulnerable looking young women. I believe, most, if not all the attacks on  Muslim women are carried out by men.  I am sure that they would not attack a man.

I have always thought of Bristol as a wonderful city, a city of sanctuary and one that prides itself of it’s rich multi-cultural diversity. Many people (Muslim and non-Muslim) are of course very shocked by the horrific attacks on Gaza at the moment. As citizens of Bristol we would expect some response from our Council to de-legitimise the attacks on Muslims. I hope he understands how Muslims are attacked when our so-called leaders do not defend Muslims or speak of Muslims as equal human beings.

I have been in tears for most of today, It makes me very angry and upset that this happens in our society and it makes me scared to think what would happen to other women who might not stand up for themselves. As it happened in Cabot Circus, the CCTV footage should be able to find the man (I find it hard to use the word ‘man’ , he doesn’t deserve to be called a ‘man’). I hope he is caught so he cannot terrorise and traumatise other women. (However, the police have just informed me that they won’t be able to review the CCTV footage until at least Thursday, I am fearful that other women may be attacked or I will be attacked again until he is dealt with.)

I was born in this country, am I hated and not considered British because of my religion?”

Under-Reporting of Anti-Muslim Hate Still an Ongoing Problem

The June MET hate crime figures are out and it seems that June’s figures when compared to May’s, finally show a slight drop in the level of anti-Muslim hate crimes that have been reported into the Metropolitan Police Service. However, what is striking is that levels of homophobic crimes are slightly higher when compared to June 2013 and interestingly, levels of antisemitic crimes were also higher when comparing June 2014 to June 2013.

The under-reporting of anti-Muslim hate still remains a stubborn issue and our consistent call to Muslim communities is to report in anti-Muslim hate. Reporting in anti-Muslim hate can save lives and it also ensures some access to justice for the victim. Remember to report in and you can do so by the following means:

1. By filling in this form
2. Phone TELL MAMA on 0800 456 1226
3. Text TELL MAMA on 01157070007
4. Email TELL MAMA at
5. Tweet TELL MAMA @tellmamauk
6. Message TELL MAMA on Facebook at TellMamaUK

Homophobic crime Islamophobic crime

Populations (2011)

12 months to

12 months to

12 months to

12 months to

Jun 2014

Jun 2013


Jun 2014

Jun 2013


Tower Hamlets
























































Waltham Forest
































London total








Britain First and the Intimidation of Mosque Worshippers in England

This is an infographic showing the mosques which have been targeted by Britain First across the country. We have listed reasons why we consider Britain First a public menace to cohesion and their inflammatory actions require police forces to act, sooner rather than later. We genuinely believe that future such incidents may spark acts of violence if left unchecked, given the sensitivity around places of worship and how such acts of humiliation by Britain First send out a message of hate, intolerance and bigotry to all users of the mosques they target.

The aggressive denier

A Timeline of Britain First and their Inflammatory Actions in the UK, by Steve Rose

Say No To ExtremismMarch 17 2014: A minority of activists entered the Jamia Madina Masjid mosque in Bolton and Jamiyat Tabligh-ul-Islam mosque in Oldham. Video shows a minority of activists outside the Golden Mosque in Rochdale.

Why? Britain First activists distribute their ‘Muslim grooming ’ leaflets.

May 10: Up to ten Britain First activists, some in uniform, protest at ten different places of worship in Bradford city centre.

Why? Activists hand out ‘Muslim grooming’ leaflets and army issued Bibles. In Bradford alone, 100 Bibles were distributed.

May 11: Britain First activists enter two mosques in Glasgow, Scotland. (Glasgow Central Mosque and Cumbernauld mosque).

Why? Activists hand out ‘Muslim grooming’ leaflets and army issued Bibles.

May 19: Four Britain First activists, all uniformed, enter East London Mosque and demand to speak to the Imam.

Why? Activists hand out ‘Muslim grooming’ leaflets and army issued Bibles before abruptly leaving.

June 16: Britain First allegedly enter several mosques and Islamic centres, including Luton Central mosque and Bury Park mosque. Yet, the video released by Britain First only shows activists entering a single mosque.

Why? To protest the bail conditions placed upon the ex-leader and founder of the English Defence League (EDL) Tommy Robinson. Worshippers at one mosque are shown in the video being handed ‘Muslim grooming’ leaflets and army issued Bibles.

July 3: Several Britain First activists, all uniformed, argue with worshippers outside the Nasir Mosque in Gilligham. They later visit the Jamia Mosque in Gillingham.

Why? To protest the application for a new mosque in Gillingham, inside Jaima mosque, elderly worshippers were told, “Withdraw your application for a new mosque, ok?

“Otherwise we, Britain First, will run a big campaign against you guys personally and also the council and the Imam, yeah?

July 14: Three uniformed Britain First activists are filmed entering Crayford mosque and confronting one elderly Muslim male. According to one worshipper, six activists stayed for around ten minutes to harass individuals.

Why? To protest against gender segregation. One worshipper is told, “Inform the Imams that they have exactly 7 days to remove sexist, segregationist signs from outside their building, or we will”.

Britain First and Senior Citizens in the West Kent Muslim Association

Not to fascismIn the latest of a series of ‘mosque’ invasions, members of the far right group Britain First pushed their way into the West Kent Muslim Association last Sunday.

A group of five men and one woman – including BF leader and former BNP councillor Paul Golding – entered the mosque and, following a familiar script, refused to take off their shoes, and began to harangue attendees and confront the imam who was present at the time. The subject? The ‘sexist and offensive signs’ outside the mosque, which read ‘Brothers only’ and ‘Sisters only’, and divide men and women into separate worship in the mosque (as Charlotte Meredith points out in the Huffington Post, most mosques, Orthodox Jewish synagogues, and Sikh Gurdwaras operate on a similar basis). This isn’t a new concern to Golding – who, as part of the England National Resistance, was campaigning on the same issue last year – but this particular protest took on a new dimension.

Surrounding the Imam, and pushing into his personal space, the BF members warned him that ‘you’ve got one week to take those signs down, or we will’. Another BF member warned that ‘when you respect women, we’ll respect your mosque’. Syed Alam, one of the mosque volunteers, talking to News Shopper, said reported the Britain First members stayed for up to ten minutes harassing members in a ‘very aggressive and threatening manner’. Speaking to Tell MAMA, another imam present reported that they were ‘shouting loudly’ and raising their voices, and had confronted the chairman of the mosque without any prior warning. According to Rahat Alam, another volunteer, the mosque chairman was ‘shocked, but fine’, and that while the mosque community had been shaken by the incident, they had gathered together in solidarity against it. Indeed, as so often happens after such incidents, they responded by expressing welcome to visitors who came in on peaceable and amicable terms.

As mentioned above, and elsewhere on this blog, Britain First are increasingly adopting ‘invasion’ as a tactic – previously, mosques in the North-West Bradford, Glasgow, Luton, Kent and East London have also been targeted since the campaign, part of ‘Operation Fightback’, began in May this year. Throughout BF have adopted an overtly militaristic approach, not only describing their intrusions in terms of ‘invasions’, but also engaging in combat training for a ‘defence force/activist academy’, forming quasi-military regional ‘companies’ with designated leaders, and describing themselves as having been ‘blooded’ by their activity in the field. Jim Dowson, one of the organisation’s leaders, has also described the group’s actions as a ‘holy war’ or ‘crusade’, defined explicitly as the same (but opposite) concept to ‘Jihad’. Paul Golding, another leader, declared that ‘It’s as simple as this: take action or we will continue our Christian Crusade.’ Even the music on their video reflects this; much of the video is accompanied by martial, Lord-of-the-Rings-style drums and chanting.

This tone is belied by the actual numbers present at many ‘invasions’. As with similarly to this intrusion, their ‘violent actions’ have typically been limited to entering unlocked mosques in groups of four to ten, refusing to leave or take off shoes, and haranguing worshippers and handing out religious literature, before leaving. Nonetheless, the approaches made by the group have certainly adopted a threatening character, with members wearing uniforms of matching hats and dark green tops (‘activist jackets’), driving former military land rovers, and invading the personal space of (often elderly) mosque staff.

Perhaps the most significant impact of these ‘invasions’, however, seems to be the way they claim space. Religious institutions of any faith are typically places of peace, contemplation, and religious observance – as late as the 17th century in England, churches provided legal sanctuary from persecution. Religious institutions are places of peace and refuge from the world. As such, the symbolic impact of a group of people stomping in in matching ‘activist jackets’, threatening to start remodelling the property unless their demands are met represents a fairly dramatic intrusion on a religious space; a claim to ownership of and domination over it, which, whether intentional or not, is fairly threatening. It’s a sudden, shocking action that suggests ‘we can come in here and do what we want, and you can’t stop us’, and that ‘we don’t respect this institution’. As such, even if the rhetoric of ‘invasion’ massively overestimates the actual threat, it still can have be upsetting, as the statements of Syed and Rahat Alam, and the second imam, suggest.

If we take BF at their word, then their concern is about gender equality, and women’s liberation; indeed, the female BF member argued that ‘we fought long and hard for equality’, and would not let a mosque’s own practice impede that. The idea of women’s liberation from oppressive forces is certainly a valuable one, but it’s not clear that, for all of their concern about Islam and women, Britain First listen particularly much to women’s voices. We’ve read accounts from female members of the mosque community who have senior responsibilities in the running it, and see the separate entrances are part of a religious observance that they choose to partake in. Building on Tell MAMA’s research, academics from Birmingham University have investigated the nature and impact of intersectional hate violence targeting Muslim women, seeing the looking at the mutually reinforcing issues of violence against women and anti-Muslim violence, and looking to explain why attacks on Muslim women are so common compared to other forms of hate violence. Others have remarked on the double-glazed extra-strong glass ceiling that seems to limit Muslim women’s employment achievements. Yes, we should care about misogyny and poor treatment of women, and especially in cases where overlapping forms of discrimination; but feminist movements little need groups of uniformed far-right ‘activists’ storming into mosques and delivering ultimatums over the complaints of Muslim women.

New On-line Journal to be Launched as part of TELL MAMA

Together with our sister organisation, Faith Matters, we are pleased to announce that we are setting up a new journal on inter/multi-faith issues, identity, community, and faith, and we are currently looking for submissions from writers for its launch in September.

Over the past year, TELL MAMA have had a number of people – students, journalists, and civil society activists – writing in to us, interested in submitting articles, comment and editorial pieces, or research that they’ve done on issues of hate crime, religious life in Britain, and the subtle web of religious, cultural, and historical ties between communities in the UK and the rest of the world. We’ve published a lot of them on the Tell MAMA blog, but ultimately, we feel that they deserve to be given greater prominence and more stature.

We’re looking for a wide range of content, including research, comment pieces, reports on events and issues, facts, info-graphics, and even (if you’re creative) arts and crafts! While this newsletter is run by Tell MAMA – and so articles relating to Muslim and inter/multi-faith issues, as well as resilience against hate violence, are particularly welcome – we’re also interested in a wider range of issues relating to community, identity, and faith. Pas-e-Parda, a newsletter run by Faith Matters’ Pakistan branch, has included travel writing, discussions of British Pakistani identity (and cuisine!), and poetry.

We’re also interested in getting a wide range of views and opinions represented as part of this newsletter, in order to help spur a lively and productive debate, so don’t feel that this publication wouldn’t be right for you! Critical, clear-eyed, and intellectually provocative content is particularly welcome, and we’re keen to discuss a wide range of articles and content.


- If you want your writing published by a national NGO,

- If you’re a student who wants to sharpen your writing skills and hone your CV,

- If you’ve got strong opinions or a fresh perspective on issues of social justice or hate crimes,

- If there’s an event in your neighbourhood, or religious/other community that you want to report on,

then please get in touch with us! You can email us at We are initially looking for pieces of 500-1000 words in length, but if you get in contact with us first with an idea of what you wanted to write about, we can certainly have a chat.

Britain First and the Legacy of Hate of its Sympathisers, by Steve Rose

On another anniversary of the 7/7 terrorist attacks, when communities stand together in shared condemnation and grief, some continue to exploit this collective trauma for political ends.

 In the early hours of Monday morning, vandals targeted the 7/7 memorial in Hyde Park. London Live reported that stencilled messages included “Blair lied thousands died”, “Four innocent Muslims” and “July 7 truth”.

When Britain First shared the story, the response was anything but pleasant. Despite an ongoing police investigation, and the graffiti removed, many of their supporters instantly blamed Muslims (as a minority pointed the finger at Unite Against Fascism).

The narrative of collective guilt intoxicated some to express the sentiment of revenge and violence:

 “four dead muslims!!!!!!!!! and counting”

 “Only four?….what a shame”

“NO such thing as an innocent muslim. they are all as guilty as hell. IF OUR GOVERMENT DON ACT THEN ITS UP TO US”

“They are very twisted ugly people who should be shot. Send the ugly vermin back to their savelos. There will be a holy war but this time we will win!”

“They should all be put in a house and gassed, then chopped up and burnt”

Others called for revenge against mosques, “muslims man can’t leave nowt alone let’s vandalise the mosques.” That single comment attracted over fifty individual Facebook ‘likes’.

One supporter even suggested spraying Muslim’s directly with pig’s blood to ‘wash them’ away from towns and cities.

Broadly speaking, Britain First’s use of pseudo-paramilitary imagery and language is potentially inspiring more violent fringes. On July 5, the anti-Islam page ‘War Against Islam – UK’ posted a photo of armed loyalists from Northern Ireland with the caption “Free English Army! Armed and Ready!”

This call to arms inspired such comments, “Lets fucking av it you muzrat cunts!!! NO SURRENDER!!!” If the last part sounds familiar, it is the shortened slogan of the English Defence League’s (EDL) “No Fucking Surrender Ever.” One prominent group member lists several far-right groups (including Britain First) among his Facebook ‘likes’.

Online abuse of Muslims (and others) is the cigarette burn of intolerance; the wound might appear superficial and even trivial to some; but it burns at a deeper level.

As we stop to remember the victims of terrorism, the language of vengeance, of abhorrent racism, and violence should not seduce us.  Nor should it tempt us into collective guilt.

Many in Britain will rightly reject this rhetoric but on the fringes, these views are potentially gaining traction.



Mosque Objections and Links to Networks. The example of the Cheadle Muslim Association

When is it acceptable for a mosque to expand in size? An application put forward to Stockport Metropolitan Council last April continues to irritate some local residents.

Cheadle Muslim Association (CMA) wants to increase the size of their mosque and improve the facilities and services offered. Proposed changes include dedicated indoor wash facilities since the current setup relies upon temporary container facilities.

For female worshippers, the proposal would provide dedicated prayer space within the main building, as others would benefit from the increased space for education and community services. The mosque is also the focal point for improving community dialogue by hosting various events and allowing local school visits.

At present, the application has received 758 rejections and 798 approvals. But does this strength of feeling accurately reflect public opinion in Cheadle?

One possible explanation for the volume of rejections is the Facebook page ‘Say NO Cheadle Mosque Extension CMA,’ which was created on June 22. In under a week, the page gained over a thousand ‘likes.’

It actively encourages individuals to oppose the application in various ways – the most popular is a direct link to the relevant section on the council website – that way, a new objection takes minutes to create.

Fears about rising traffic congestion drive many objections. Yet, that type of objection is also used by far-right and other anti-Muslim groups to mask more bigoted objections.

For example, one user submitted a message photo that encouraged objection in non-racist terms, “It has to be a non racist objection ie to do with material planning grounds ie traffic parking appearance massing or overlooking.”

In response to any potential traffic congestion, the CMA encourages worshippers to use available public transport routes and car sharing, as it will not increase car parking space.

The admin team behind the page maintain that racism or hate speech is unacceptable and quickly removed. But this policy is not always enacted as some individuals accuse the admin team of censoring opinions more critical of their intentions.

Rather oddly, the admin ‘liked’ these statements:

 “You need to contact the mosque buster he is a building law expert and will help anyone opposing a mosque free of charge”

“Im actually the division leader of stockport and thameside edl eth cook and well go where we want lol”

“The area is mainly English Christian society and that should be protected against Islamist followers who openly use threats against local people when they hold services in that mosque.”

A simple explanation offered for this inconsistency is that the admin team consists of five individuals. Nor are they so quick to remove offensive posts, including a bizarre comment about the local community being ‘drenched’ with non-English speaking individuals who are ‘not as friendly’ as the government likes to imply.

Others lament the ‘stealth approach’ of Islam challenging ‘Christian principles,’ as another individual wrote, “no more mosques got enough,” neither comment faced censorship.

Whilst the admin team cannot control who shares content, it is noteworthy that the anti-Islam page ‘Our Eye on Islam’ shared one of their photos. Another anti-Islam page ‘Truth About Islam’ encouraged supporters to ‘like’ their page. Other Facebook pages, including ‘Infidels of Britain’ and ‘Bolton North West Infidels,’ encourage the same.

In an effort to potentially distort the strength of feeling, the admin team encouraged individuals to use family addresses or empty properties to drive up the volume of opposition (before quietly removing the post.)

On June 30, a new campaign page, titled ‘NO to Cheadle Mosque Extension’ launched after the original page was removed from Facebook. The Stockport Division of the English Defence League (EDL) did their best to promote the new page. In a matter of days, it gained over 1,500 ‘likes.’

Warnings from the admin team about keeping content “clean” once again go unheeded, as problematic and offensive posts are easy to find:

“Thank you Cheadle. We must all stick together in this fight against Islamification.”

“This is the tip of the iceberg and we are slowly and stealthily being infiltrated by this terrorist loving cult called Islam”

“Keep up the good work guys… No to ANY Mosques ANYWERE…”

The admin team also ‘liked’ comments relating to controversial ‘mosque buster’ Gavin Boby. One poster signed off his comment with the EDL slogan “NFSE” (No fucking surrender ever) but faced no censor.

So how do we differentiate legitimate grievances from those driven by an anti-Muslim agenda? Due to poor administration, both Facebook pages only serve to distort the ongoing local debate.

 Cheadle planning objectionsCheadle Mosque Objection 2






Cheadle3Cheadle Objection 4

Teesside / TELL MAMA Publication Out Today. A Summary of Developments by Leah Owen

Today marks the publication of a report by Teesside University’s Centre for Fascist, Anti-fascist, and Post-Fascist studies, entitled Tell MAMA Reporting 2013/14: Anti-Muslim Overview, Analysis and ‘Cumulative Extremism’. Based on Tell MAMA’s data, and the expertise of the authors, Dr Matthew Feldman and Mark Littler, this report examines Tell MAMA’s reporting processes, and the state of anti-Muslim hate crime in England and Wales. We welcome their findings, grim though they often are; the report underlines a real and tangible problem that anti-Muslim hate crime represents, and some of the factors influencing its recent rise.

The heart of Feldman and Littler’s report is a detailed analysis of anti-Muslim hate crime that looks at 734 cases between 1 May 2013 and 28 February 2014. 599 of these were online, and 135 were street-based. In many cases, they find close parallels between anti-Muslim hate crime and other forms of anti-minority violence. Only 17% of victims reported in to the police, for example, the same figure as with anti-learning-disability and anti-Roma/Sinti/traveller attacks, a problem that severely complicates the broader assessment of hate crime, and underlines the importance of confidence-building mechanisms and third-party reporting services. Perpetrators are largely male, although are often younger in cases of anti-Muslim hate crime.

Yet Feldman and Littler identify a number of disturbing trends distinctive to anti-Muslim hate crime, which have long been of great concern to us. Muslim women represent the majority of victims (54% of offline victims, compared to only 25.5% for hate crime victims in general). Even after a much more stringent verification process that Tell MAMA has adopted, 45% of online cases were found to have a clear verbal/slogan-based link to online far right movement.  Hate crime may have decreased in general across the UK, but anti-Muslim hate crime – alongside antisemitic and homophobic hate crime – has noticeably increased. Cases of extreme violence were also notably higher than in other cases, particularly after the murder of Lee Rigby on 22 May 2013, as were attacks on mosques and places of worship.

In noting these issues, this report builds on the findings of previous Tell MAMA-based reports on Islamophobia and the far right, and anti-Muslim attacks and Muslim women by Teesside and Birmingham universities, but the detailed approach taken by this report reinforces our understanding of this as a serious issue, and provides a robust basis for further discussion. Where figures on anti-Muslim hate crime coincide with those faced by other communities, we can understand them as part of a larger social problem issue and phenomenon; where they are distinctive for Muslims in Britain, they represent areas for particular concern, and help direct and shape our future endeavours in this field.

One of the most significant events in the field of anti-Muslim hate crime over the past few years was doubtless the ruthless murder of Lee Rigby, and the ensuing anti-Muslim backlash. While different agencies reported different rates of increase – Tell MAMA found a 373% increase over the course of a week relative to the week before – one London Borough Commander suggested that there had been an eightfold increase in parts of London, and Home Office Statistics suggesting a low estimate of a 63% increase in the West Midlands – it is clear that anti-Muslim hate crime spiked after this. Feldman and Littler productively apply ideas of cumulative extremism to this field, looking at the ways in which anti-Muslim attacks – both online and offline – may have been spurred by violent acts which were seen as the fault of ‘all Muslims’. They also note the way that the impact of attacks may have been particularly drawn out, having effects and impacts for months after the original event – a worrying trend that initial Metropolitan police data obtained by Tell MAMA appears to confirm. Here and elsewhere, these issues have been discussed at length. Yet this report makes a valuable, authoritative, academic contribution to the field, and also contains useful recommendations.

The report not only covers anti-Muslim hate crime, but is also about Tell MAMA itself. It analyses the Tell MAMA reporting process, making it more transparent to external scrutiny, and identifying areas that have been either improved or need further focus. Tell MAMA is now two and a half years old, and continues to grow, develop, and refine its recording processes – like any organisation, it has encountered obstacles and problems along this road. The report identifies the problems that any self-reporting facility is likely to face, and identifies some of the ways in which these problems have been addressed. More exacting standards of evidence for validating cases; a regular/randomised case-review system; and a standardisation of definitions have all been noted by the report, which reflects part of our ongoing improvements to the system. To retain confidence beyond an initial ‘honeymoon’ period, and for its data and work to have an impact, Tell MAMA will have to continue developing its rigour and effectiveness. Teesside’s review, from an examination of this (and the broader issues introduced by changing visibility and increasing confidence) finds that Tell MAMA’s data ‘can be approached with both methodological caution and statistical confidence’. Consequently, we are confident that we can continue to develop on this front, and make Tell MAMA an organisation worthy of the UK’s Muslim community in the same way that the CST stands for Britain’s Jews.

Finally, it is extremely useful to have Tell MAMA’s work contextualised in a broader academic and policy making framework. Tell MAMA has ongoing lobbying efforts and work in this field, but the expertise and background of the authors provides a significant backdrop of academic rigour that we are glad Tell MAMA’s dataset contributes. One organisation’s work alone can achieve some change, and apply some pressure to bring about policy, but this report represents a timely and convincing synthesis of a broad range of work into a cohesive whole

Tell MAMA continues to grow and mature as an organisation, and, through reports such as this, it – and its work – can improve to better protect and support British Muslims.