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, don’t just take our word for it – here are 10 incontrovertible facts about anti-Muslim hatred:
- 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).
- 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,
- We have recorded more than 1,000 cases ourselves since May 2013, which includes both online and offline incidents,
- There have been at least 35 attacks against mosques since Woolwich,
- 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,
- Two ex-soldiers who firebombed a mosque four days after the murder of Fusilier Lee Rigby were recently jailed for six years.
- 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
- 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
- Policing EDL street demonstrations has cost the country more than £10m.
- 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.