THE INCONTROVERTIBLE FACTS ABOUT ANTI-MUSLIM HATRED SINCE WOOLWICH – RESPONSE BY FIYAZ MUGHAL

Two years on from our birth and the problems of anti-Muslim hatred are, unfortunately, still with us: part of a legacy arising from the senseless murder of Lee Rigby by two deluded fanatics in May last year.

Speaking during a constant round of (48) media appearances in the immediate aftermath of the Rigby murder, I said in one interview that we had faced a “wave of attacks”. In the interviews we also repeatedly asked for calm, urged the public to report in hate incidents and stated that the United Kingdom was one of the safest places in Europe to be. The last thing we needed, was a further instigation of what was then, a very fast moving and sensitive environment with the English Defence League and its sympathisers looking for further confrontations.

Some asked: ‘How can you claim there is an unprecedented cycle of attacks, if your project is only a year old?’ Others told us that: ‘Most of these incidents were online, so they don’t really count’. Others suggested that we were not telling the truth and that Muslims lie to achieve the spread of Islam with a heavy dose of the prejudicial term ‘taqiyya’ thrown in.

Well, dont just take our word for it here are 10 incontrovertible facts about anti-Muslim hatred:

  1. In December, the Press Association revealed that UK anti-Muslim hate crime ‘soars’ across police forces in England & Wales, with 500 “Islamophobic crimes” recorded by the MET police alone (the figures could be much higher: nearly half of the 43 forces failed to reveal how many hate crimes had targeted Muslims).
  2. The MET Police figures remain stubbornly high – up +60% year-on-year (to February 2014) – and which have increased every month since Woolwich, not just in its immediate aftermath,
  3. We have recorded more than 1,000 cases ourselves since May 2013, which includes both online and offline incidents,
  4. There have been at least 35 attacks against mosques since Woolwich,
  5. Ukrainian neo-Nazi Pavlo Lapshyn let off bombs outside three mosques in the West Midlands during June and July 2013, motivated by “racial and religious hatred” according to his trial judge. Lapshyn also murdered 82-year-old grandfather, Mohammed Saleem, in April 2013, stabbing him in the back and stamping on his head,
  6. Two ex-soldiers who firebombed a mosque four days after the murder of Fusilier Lee Rigby were recently jailed for six years.
  7. Arsonists burned down a mosque in Muswell Hill, North London, in June 2013 and attempted to burn down an Islamic school in Chislehurst with the pupils still inside, leading the MET Police Commissioner, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe and Commander Simon Letchford to speak of an “eightfold” increase in Islamophobic attacks & leading to 24-hour protection for key Islamic sites
  8. The far-right EDL grew to over 150,000 Facebook ‘likes’ following Woolwich, starting a mini-riot the night of the killing and with supporters writing social media statements such as – “get as many of the rag-head dogs as yous can lads!! much support and best wishes from ulster.. NO SURRENDER!! Kill any muslim u see!!!! – cause carnage on them mother fuckers!!!!!!!!!!! Several EDL sympathisers were jailed after calling for attacks against mosques
  9. Policing EDL street demonstrations has cost the country more than £10m.
  10. There is serious under-reporting of hate crimes – evidence from the British Crime Survey (2009/10; 2010/11) suggests that over 50 per cent of hate crime incidents go unreported and “therefore the majority of victims suffer in silence”

We have three staff working full-time and flat out chronicling incidents and attempting to provide support for victims. We take little joy from the fact that anti-Muslim hate needs tackling and we take little joy from the fact that the murder of Lee Rigby led to serious issues around cohesion in our country. If there was one thing that we have worked towards, it is trying to get Muslims to take control when they are subjected to anti-Muslim hate and to demonstrate to them that they are part of the mainstream and that there are ways to seek redress rather than building on a sense of grievances.

Our work has ensured that TELL MAMA and myself have been attacked from all angles: by far-right activists, by Muslim haters, by hostile voices even within the Muslim community itself.

When we appointed both gay rights campaigner, Peter Tatchell, and prominent Jewish leader, Richard Benson, as patron and co-chair respectively, we received further opprobrium from those who said that Muslims can’t unite with the LGBT community, that homosexuality is unacceptable or that Muslims must oppose ‘Zionists’.

We have also been attacked by some in the media, who claim we have exaggerated our claims. We simply don’t accept that analysis and we realize that more work needs to be done to develop the platform of work on anti-Muslim prejudice, yet we have always striven to document the facts and reduce conjecture, whilst caught within finite resources and covering the whole country.

We are, and have been, on a journey. Not an easy one at that. We are making progress: we now have academic verification of our work from analysts at Teesside University, for example, and we have worked with experts at Birmingham University to produce reports on the impact of anti-Muslim incidents upon women. We have further reports in the pipeline.

Let us not downplay the very real fear and harm generated by anti-Muslim hatred, whether it be on social media or in the streets. And let all those who ‘hate hatred’ unite with us to fight for a better Britain – for all our communities.

Timeline Map of Mosque Incidents & Attacks Between 2012-2013

We are in the process of launching a further report which reviews and analyzes the data and reports that we received in 2013. The report also covers the Woolwich period and the backlash against Muslim communities through on-line and off-line hate incidents after the murder of Lee Rigby. The report will be out in 4-5 weeks though we thought that this graphic visually represents the intensity of mosque incidents and attacks post the end of May and early 2013. It is a shocking reminder of the impact of the death of Lee on cohesion and community relations. The clustering of attacks and the serious nature of them reflects a period in which hate incidents and attacks were coming in at a significant pace when compared to pre-May 2013.

We request that if this graphic is used, that you reference it to us at TELL MAMA. Thank you.

Clustering of Mosque attacks

Fig 1. Attacks on Mosques Reported Into TELL MAMA Between 1st January 2012 – 31st of August 2013

The latest MET Islamophobic hate crime figures to September 2013

metrecthumb

The latest hate crime figures from the Metropolitan Police Service once again show a startling set of data. Take for example a 68% increase in Islamophobic hate crime from September 2012 to September 2013 in Tower Hamlets. Or the 475% increase in the London Borough of Greenwich during the same period, or the 50% increase in Islamophobic hate crimes in Hackney when comparing the same time periods; or take the 200% increase in Lambeth or Southwark during the same time periods.

What these figures show are a 55% increase in Islamophobic hate crimes when compared between September 2012 to 2013. Thankfully, the spike in Islamophobic hate crimes in London is reducing from the figure of 815 in August 2013 to 680, though it should be noted that the figures are coming down after the peak post Woolwich and the murder of drummer Lee Rigby. Nonetheless, what it shows is that there was a post Woolwich peak and that Islamophobic crimes remain an issue across the capital.

On a final note, could there be the possibility that people are better informed and are more confident in reporting in Islamophobic hate crimes? Well that could be the case, though such large rises take decades of work and resources to build community confidence in reporting in. We, TELL MAMA, have been  working over the last 18 months on community education programmes and therefore the spike in reporting, we believe, is strongly due to the post-Woolwich backlash. We will, no doubt, continue to keep an eye on the data coming through from mulitple sources, including our casework.

Tommy Robinson & His Future Career – PRESS STATEMENT

PRESS STATEMENT

Date: 08/10/2013
Contact: 0800 456 1226
E-mail: info@tellmamauk.org

RESPONSE TO THE ‘DEFECTION’ OF THE ENGLISH DEFENCE LEAGUE LEADER BY TELL MAMA

TELL MAMA welcomes the ‘defection’ of the English Defence League leader, though notes with some trepidation and caution, the activities of Stephen Lennon and Kevin Carroll over the last 4 years. Just a few days ago we documented how the English Defence League web-site allowed the targeting of all Muslims in general whilst talking about being anti-racist. Let us also not forget the actions of Stephen Lennon (aka Tommy Robinson) when he marched to Woolwich after the brutal murder of drummer Lee Rigby and over the last 24 months, we have systematically documented how EDL sympathisers have been involved in off-line and on-line hate incidents against Muslims. For example, our data and our responses can be found here.

TELL MAMA  were also key in recording the range of anti-Muslim incidents post Woolwich, both off-line and on-line which no doubt, was instigated by the actions of the EDL. The impact of the Far Right can also be found through the Teesside report which was based on TELL MAMA data.

Commenting on the ‘defection,’ the Director of TELL MAMA, Fiyaz Mughal, stated:

“The real question is whether Tommy Robinson has changed from just a few days ago when he was at the heart of the EDL machinery and where his messages undermined the work of anti-racist campaigners and those like us who counter hate and prejudice in communities.  Whilst we cautiously welcome his change ‘defection’, the real truth will come out in the next few months and years. Yet, we must remain vigilant against the remaining sections of the English Defence League who may turn more violent after this event.

Also, we would ask Tommy Robinson to apologise to our nation for the millions of pounds spent on policing costs and for the tensions in communities he has caused. Someone should be held accountable for the enormous wastage of police, local authority and other resources whilst his street instigators ram amock in places like Stoke, Birmingham and other cities. We will not doubt be keeping a close eye on his activities and the activities of others in the English Defence League.”

ENDS

Response from the British Jewish Community to Attacks on Mosques Post Woolwich


The Joseph Interfaith Foundation
,United in a Vision for Truth

Press Release

The Jewish community is deeply saddened and concerned by the recent number of bombing and arson attacks on mosques since the appalling murder of Drummer Lee Rigby.

The planting of bombs in places of worship such as at the Aisha Mosque in Walsall and the Wolverhampton Central Mosque is truly shocking. We utterly condemn and abhor these hateful actions against the Muslim community. It is particularly distressing that these attacks are taking place during the holy month of Ramadhan, the month of fasting, praying, acts of generosity and charity from Muslims.  

As a fellow minority group we are particularly sensitive to hate crimes and we extend our full support and solidarity with the British Muslims.  The perpetrators of these attacks seek to cause divisions and mistrust between different groups in our society and we are certain that they will not succeed in their endeavours.

We wish the Muslim community to know that we share their sorrows and concerns about these Islamophobic attacks on them and their places of worship and pray that God will remove all hatred and enmity from among all people so that we shall all live peacefully as one nation in this country.

Board of Deputies of British Jews

Rabbi Ivan Binstock, Dayan, London Beth Din

Rabbi Danny Rich, Chief Executive, Liberal Judaism

Rabbi Sybil Sheridan, Chair, Assembly of Reform Rabbis UK

Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg, Senior Rabbi, Masorti Judaism UK

National Council of Imams and Rabbis, The Joseph Interfaith Foundation

For information

The Joseph Interfaith Foundation is a national joint Muslim-Jewish interfaith organisation. www.josephinterfaithfoundation.org

National Council of Imams & Rabbis  http://www.josephinterfaithfoundation.org/joseph-main/religiousLeaders.php

For contact:

Mehri Niknam MBE

Executive Director

Email: info@josephinterfaithfoundation.org

Mobile: 07816 814 691

Open Letter to Tony Parsons of the Daily Mirror

Dear Tony,

Thanks for your opinion piece in the Daily Mirror and the positive outlook that you provide about a modern Britain at ease with itself and which is also at ease with diverse communities. Indeed, this is something that we have always promoted, whether through recent interviews in the press and through the project work of Faith Matters which has actively worked on promoting mutual understanding, dialogue and conflict resolution projects. We have also stressed that Britain is one of the safest nations in the world and that people should carry on with their lives and not let fear affect the lives of us all. This has been stated over and over again post Woolwich.

Now let us come onto some of the points that you raise and which have been recycled  previously. Before we do that, we would humbly suggest that describing women in your article in the Abaya (or Islamic covering) with the Hijab (head-covering) and Niqab (the face veil), as ‘batman and batman,’ is not helpful. Many women who chose to religiously wear such clothing items are abused and called derogatory terms and re-enforcing them in your article which talks about tolerance in Britain, runs contrary to what you promote in your article. Britain is indeed a tolerant nation and we should be proud of our ability to live with diversity. Using terms like ‘batman’ to  describe the choice of clothing of some women simply negates that argument. Furthermore, interviews and academic work with women who wear the Abaya and the Niqab, show that many suffer repeated and aggressive incidents and attacks. This is also corroborated by feedback to the TELL MAMA project and making a judgement on such issues by looking at two women in Oxford Street, respectfully, does not constitute evidence that such women do not suffer prejudice. Tony, we suggest that we arrange an opportunity for you to meet with some women who have been abused and to listen to their perspectives. How does this sound?

Now, let us get back onto the issue of a range of anti-Muslim incidents post Woolwich. What is clear is that to date, we have received reports of 12 mosques being attacked, (13 if it turns out that the Muswell Hill mosque was the target of the English Defence League). 212 incidents which ranged from street based targeted abuse, on-line abuse, damage to property and mosque attacks were recorded by TELL MAMA as they were reported in by members of the public post Woolwich. Full verification of the cases took place and we have listed the verification process in this article. The recording process is also listed in the article and what is clear is that a spike in reporting in of anti-Muslim incidents took place. Such a phenomenon is nothing new and the well respected and groundbreaking organisation, the Community Security Trust, which monitors anti-Semitic crimes also have reported spikes in anti-Semitic reporting when for example, the invasion of Gaza took place in Operation Cast Lead. So major national or international incidents, do lead to a spike in reporting in of hate incidents. The level of the spike may well reflect the nature of the incident and the murder of drummer Lee Rigby was a nation stopping event that rocked the sensibilities of every man and women in our nation. So it was a major incident that caused revulsion in all communities.

Tony, one of the other suggestions that you make is that the actions of interfaith organisations to come together after the Muswell Hill attack demonstrates that the social space for a backlash was squeezed down; that in fact, Britain once again showed its tolerant side. This position has some merit, though it also does not reflect on the fact that many of these interfaith postures are meant to show solidarity and to also reduce any possible tensions in communities. They do not automatically show that there is a wider tolerance in society and there are numerous reasons why faith organisations chose to turn up and stand in solidarity with others. Furthermore, one of the most glaringly obvious elements missing in your piece is an assessment of community impacts and perceptions. Targeting an individual for anti-Muslim prejudice is bad enough and this includes targeting through on-line and off-line methods. Whilst street based incidents may frighten the victim through the face to face interaction which takes place, we must not under-estimate the impact that social media hate, for example, has. Here is an example of some of the anti-Muslim prejudice that is readily available on-line. We also must not under-estimate the community wide impacts that affect hundreds if not thousands of worshippers when a mosque is attacked. For many, an attack on a mosque is a personal attack on their faith, which develops feelings of anger, anxiety, humiliation and the desire for retribution. However, according to Tony, these wide community impacts simply do not exist.

On a separate note Tony, a grant to run a national project which covers England & Wales and which employs 7 people to cover such a wide area does not mean that data figures are exaggerated or made up. Making such suggestions without seeing or understanding the data is not helpful in our opinion and we hope that after reading the release of our first annual review at the end of July, you may get a better grasp of our work, rather than the narrow view that our data and reports are based on trying to get more funding. This is simply not true and there are easier ways in life to make a living without being at the brunt end of daily threats, cyber-attacks against our servers, scurrilous articles about our work, being accused of playing to a ‘victim mentality’ and in working with a community that is suspicious of reporting in hate incidents and crimes. (Muslim communities have developed a fear that data may be collected as part of a wider data trawl for Prevent). The latter, we can assure the general public, is not the case given that this project is not Prevent funded, nor will we release the data of victims to third parties, unless to the Police and with the express authorisation of the victim. So Tony, given the range of issues that we work through, a grant that barely covers our basic costs is hardly access to a ‘gravy train.’ The aim of this project is to support victims of anti-Muslim prejudice or Islamophobia and support for the victim is the primary focus of this project. Please let us all try and remember that.

Lastly Tony, thankfully we live by the rule of law and through democratic process in our country. Unlike you, we believe that democracy and state institutions are more fragile than many of us think they are. We should not assume that democracy can sustain itself. Democracy and what it means to us all, is always changing, always in flux and open and prone to those who may seek to suppress and manipulate it to suit their material and sometimes, power needs. So, democracy is more fragile than we think and needs to be protected. This means that countering hate groups and hate speech is one spoke in the wheel in the protection of democratic rights since some who purport to protect democracy, also seek to defend hate speech which is couched as free speech. The two can’t go together. Either we defend democratic rights and the right for every community to live free from fear or harassment, or we simply defend a hollow tribute to democracy whilst communities feel that their social space to live free from fear is under threat.  So, whether Anjum Choudhary at one end or to on-line keyboard warriors who promote sustained hate on a daily basis, we need to act to inform and educate communities through clear, succinct and well documented data. That is what we seek to do whilst supporting those who suffer from prejudicial hate. So, Tony, less of the ‘business’ and more of the ‘support for victims.’

Gilligan & the Reductionists

Context

We received a call at around 5 pm on Friday the 31st of May by Andrew Gilligan, the Telegraph journalist and the Mayor’s cycle ambassador. He asked the Director of TELL MAMA a number of questions and was provided with a range of responses, some of which were simply not included in the article.

We will go through the key elements of the article and provide some context and explanations which are sadly missing from Gilligan’s article. Also, it should be noted that throughout the last week and a half, the Director of TELL MAMA and Faith Matters – Fiyaz Mughal, was one of the first people to condemn the brutal murder of drummer Lee Rigby and to state that a ‘no holds approach’ be taken against those who seek to murder people on the streets of our country. Those comments have been reported on widely in various media sources.

What are Third Party Hate Crime Reporting Projects?

Hate crime third party reporting projects take in reports from people who perceive statements to be made prejudicially on the basis of say, their race or faith. The McPherson recommendations after the brutal racist killing of Stephen Lawrence led to the setting up of third party hate crime reporting projects, where reports of hate incidents could be made to independent organisations and who would then pass that information to police on a named or anonymous basis so that the incidents could be formally logged. It has also formed the basis of tension monitoring assessments that the police conduct. That has therefore formed the basis of the work of third party hate crime reporting projects, yet we within TELL MAMA believed that a more rigorous approach was needed, given that many would simply try and deny or erode data on anti-Muslim prejudice. Some we also believed, would try and underplay anti-Muslim prejudice in our country, others would attack the data recording and others would suggest that this was part of an ‘Islamophobia industry.’ Well, it seems that Andrew has certainly attempted to take positions along some of these lines.

So, on the basis of McPherson’s recommendations, many third party hate crime reporting organisations usually receive reports of verbal abuse and increasingly, around on-line abuse. Thankfully, many do not receive reports of very violent attacks which they suggest, should immediately be reported to the police through 999. Like other projects, the TELL MAMA national project makes this clear across the face of its web-site. Indeed, it is the first thing that is stated on the site. So the attempt by Gilligan to underplay the impact of the incidents and suggest that many were non-violent, tells us that his initial assumptions are faulty and that he reads incidents as violence incidents. Nevertheless they are recordable hate incidents and which any third party hate crime project would record. Furthermore, attacks against mosques, including broken glass and graffiti against graveyard buildings, have been recorded and which Gilligan states as being, ‘relatively minor.’ No mention is made here of the community impacts and the re-enforcement of perceptions within the minds of Muslims who worship in the mosque and the impact on whole communities who use the place of worship. Gilligan simply glibly moves on after the statement.

Verification of Data from Reports

Gilligan then goes onto infer that statements on the number of incidents were made prior to all the cases being fully verified. What he fails to mention is that during the conversation, two clear elements were explained to him. To ensure due diligence and to counter charges of accepting cases without checks and balances, caseworkers drill down within conversations to find out whether victims were targeted with anti-Muslim statements, whether oral or written and whether off-line or on-line. The context of the incident, witness details and further material are extracted to provide a detailed picture to show whether the incident was indeed anti-Muslim in nature. At this stage, if there is no corroborating information, caseworkers in conjunction with a Senior Supervisor make a decision based on the available evidence, as to whether it is an Islamophobic incident. Gilligan was clearly informed that in 2012, 50 plus cases at this stage were not marked as Islamophobic in nature since there was little corroborating evidence and the descriptions provided by the victim simply did not pan out and show targeted anti-Muslim prejudice. Gilligan then talks of an ‘Islamophobia industry’. If TELL MAMA wanted to build such an industry, would it not be easier to simply include as many of these cases as possible? He also simply fails to mention the reclassification of those cases and which was clearly mentioned to him in the telephone conversation.

So, let us further expand on the verification of cases. We welcome the fact that Gilligan mentioned the statement that 35 of the 212 post Woolwich incidents needed verification. What he fails to mention again and which was stated to him clearly in the phone conversation, was that a second stage verification is undertaken by the Director of TELL MAMA, where relatives and witnesses of the victim and other points of potential contact are liaised with. This second stage check and balance ensures that further validation takes place and with 4 staff working in the office at any one point on this project,  case-workers were simply stretched given the volume of incidents reported in post the killing of drummer Lee Rigby. By Friday the 31st of May, over 170 cases has been recorded and had been through the two step verification process with only 3 cases being re-classified as not being anti-Muslim in nature. With such limited resources and with stringent verification processes in play, the thrust of Gilligan’s argument is to cast an aspersion on the figures, yet he was categorically told that at the second stage process there was a negligible number of cases which were re-classified. He also failed to mention this in his article.

Using Police Data Alone as a Benchmark

Most of Gilligan’s article then attempts to use police data and figures on Islamophobic hate incidents and he uses them as a benchmark. What he fails to grasp is that the MET and other forces across the country clearly state that hate crime reporting is under-reported and forces are open and vocal about this. Indeed, TELL MAMA and the MET are in the process of signing a data sharing Memorandum of Understanding on the number of cases that the MET and TELL MAMA receive and this is built on the practice of the CST, (the Community Security Trust), which ensures that anti-Semitic hate incidents are recorded appropriately on behalf of Jewish communities in the UK. What Gilligan also fails to mention is that the value of third party hate crime reporting projects is due to the fact that victims may feel that they do not want to waste police team and so report to projects like TELL MAMA. Also many Muslims post Prevent, (the Preventing Extremism agenda), are fearful of engaging with police and many have reported to us that their cases have been re-classified with race hate incident flags rather than with Islamophobia flags. Internally, officers within ACPO, (the Association of Chief Police officers), admit that classification and recording of faith hate incidents is a potential issue and TELL MAMA data is showing that race and faith hate language is on many occasions, intricately linked. So Gilligan’s reliance on police data is inaccurate and simply shows a lack of understanding of what is happening at a community level.

Cycle of Anti-Muslim Activity

Referring to the statement made that there is ‘no end’ to the cycle of anti-Muslim activity, a full and detailed description was provided to the reporter and which has widely been reported in media sources throughout the crisis. Before the brutal murder of drummer Lee Rigby, we received on average, between 4 – 8 cases a day of Islamophobic incidences. The Woolwich murder caused a major spike in Islamophobic hate incident recordings which has started to drop and this would be expected. Yet the background noise of Islamophobic hate incidents rumbles on and this was made clear to Gilligan. What we need to keep a watching brief on is whether the baseline daily figures start to rise and whether there are cumulative effects caused by incidents such as Woolwich. This will take time to assess in the future.

Moving onto the online world, Gilligan regards on-line hate incidents as being minor or peripheral in nature and he refers to them as such within the article. He does not describe the impact they have on people, the emotional disturbance that they may cause and the distress that they clearly cause to many victims. Here for example, is what is reported into us and which Gilligan attempts to downplay.

 anti-Muslim tweet

This material is pervasive in the on-line world and if we attempted to trawl through such postings, we would simply be inundated. Furthermore, we made clear to Gilligan on the phone that whilst people from overseas countries fed in incidents to us, (which amounted to no more than 10-20 cases last year, out of approximately 650 incidents), we are able to filter these out when exporting the data into an Excel file for evaluations to be made. Once again, he failed to state this in the article.

Countering Far Right & Islamist Based Extremism

Yet, there are more worrying elements in his article. He states that ‘part of its motivation appears to be an attempt to draw some of the sting from Islamist terrorism by equating it to the work of anti-Muslim extremist groups such as the English Defence League.

At no point would we argue that the Islamist threat should be downgraded or attention be diverted from it. Indeed, the Director of TELL MAMA has been involved in working through Prevent for over 6 years and was initially appointed after 7/7 in 2005 onto the Task Force set up by the then Prime Minister, Tony Blair. His engagement has been consistent in working on projects to counter violence and extremism coming from the small number of individuals within Muslim communities. Additionally, Gilligan was also told in the course of the conversation about the recent work that TELL MAMA did with a Shia member of the public who had been assaulted by a group around Anjum Choudhary, (the ex-leader of Al Muhajiroun), on Friday the 10th of May on Edgware Road in Central London. That work involved trying to ensure that legal and criminal action was taken against members of Anjum Choudhary’s gang. Yet, once again, this was not mentioned in the article.

We also made clear that TELL MAMA and Faith Matters would continue to tackle extremists whether from the Far Right and from Islamist circles and that anyone fomenting hate within communities, would be seen as a threat to the peace and cohesion in our country; for Gilligan, the laser type approach on the Islamist threat which seems to be all encompassing, may also means that organisations which raise other societal threats, are seen negatively, possibly as if they ‘take away’ from the main focus which, it seems, Gilligan strongly believes is a pervasive Islamist threat. Yet the question is, why would he raise this point about TELL MAMA when many other organisations work on countering hate from both such elements within our country? Examples of such organisations involve Hope Not Hate. So why focus on TELL MAMA?

Definitions of Islamophobia

Definitions of Islamophobic incidents were also discussed and we made clear that the body of work on Islamophobia or anti-Muslim prejudice was still developing and that the phenomena was only categorised since 1997, when the Runnymede Trust published its groundbreaking report. We therefore took in reports based on perceived prejudice which we then verified and which may not be crimes and others which may have criminally infringed on existing public order offences for example. What we made clear to Gilligan, since he mentioned the work of the CST (Community Security Trust) and its classification of Anti-Semitism, was that we were some way away in setting a definition since the body of work was growing and it was one area where the All Party Parliamentary Group on Islamophobia would also be involved in. We also mentioned the fact that the work of the CST had spanned over 30 years and it had taken a long period of time to develop a robust, all encompassing and tangible definition, something that could not be expected of a project within a year of its launch.

Safety of Communities in the UK

Finally, we made clear to Gilligan that the United Kingdom was still the safest place to live in and that it was one of the best countries for faith communities to be in. We re-iterated this twice, yet he chose to make no mention of this. We also mentioned the fact that thankfully, there is something inherent within the British public which detests violence and this may be why we had not seen an orgy of violence after the murder in Woolwich. We have also gone on various news sources and stated that insults, abuse and attacks against Muslims and mosques simply play into the narrative of the two murderers of drummer Lee Rigby who wanted to start ‘a war.’ Once again, these comments are strangely missing from the article.

Don’t mention Islamophobia

There is one comment that we want to make and something that was mentioned to us by Gilligan. He asked us whether reporting anti-Muslim incidents played into an Islamist victim mentality. We have also heard this argument from others. In other words, do we keep issues private so that extremist narratives of victimisation are not re-enforced? Well Andrew. Just one thing to say on that. We must not forget the killing of Lee and the brutal manner in which it was carried out by two extremists purporting to come from Muslim communities. But we cannot hide from society and the wider public, the phenomenon of anti-Muslim prejudice which is unfortunately alive and well in our country and which needs to be tackled. You can either chose to acknowledge that or focus on one area at the expense of another, hence the reductionism. It is as simple as that.