On Sunday, 21 September 2014, Tell MAMA launched a letter-writing campaign encouraging the British Public to speak up on Islamophobia by writing to their MPs. So far, over 40 people have used our form to write a letter to their MP. We have a pre-set letter for anyone to use, which establishes four issues for MP’s to take into account when making policy on hate crime and anti-Muslim hate:

  1. Address under-reporting of hate crime and institute nationwide recording of anti-Muslim hate crime under a separate flag.
  2. Challenge the proliferation of extremist far-right views
  3. Deal with online hate
  4. Counter hate and Islamophobia in the school system

Based on our research, we have determined these as the four key priorities for counter anti-Muslim hate at the policy level. Below, we explain why each of these priorities is important and what MP’s can do to work on them.

According to the Crime Survey of England and Wales, 2.4% of Muslims in the UK report experiencing some kind of hate crime, which is significantly higher than any other religious group. Based on the 2011 Census, there are 2,786,635 Muslims in the UK; 2.4% of them is about 66,879 people—a huge number of people that have incurred offline hate crimes. From July 2013 to July 2014, the Metropolitan Police Service in London recorded 474 hate crimes, well below what would be expected given the incidence rate reported in the Crime Survey. There are a variety of reasons for under-reporting, but the most important is that many police force areas do not record anti-Muslim incidents under a separate crime flag. While Muslims do have a relatively high level of trust in the police despite being targeted in the last decade by counter-terrorism laws, it is important that MP’s push police forces to record anti-Muslim hate separately and to support third-party reporting centres in getting the message out about reporting hate crime.

The far-right presents a creeping threat to British Muslims. While many on the far-right do stay within the limits of free speech, there is a significant use of anti-Muslim language in these circles. For example, Britain First, a new street-based far-right party referred to all Muslims as ‘paedos’ following the breaking of child sexual exploitation in Rotherham. These groups refer to all Muslims as extremists, using ideologues such as Anjem Choudhary as examples, to denigrate Islam and British Muslims. This leads to concrete actions, such as mosque invasions and street-level confrontations that damage social cohesion and create an environment in which anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant views are voiced and left unchallenged. While the government has taken useful steps to countering far-right hate (such as recognising it in the Prevent strategy), MPs must critically review the laws around hate speech. While a form of ‘cultural racism’ characterises anti-Muslim hate on the far-right, many of the far-right’s comments, which if directed at the black community, Jewish community, or other racial groups would be considered incitement to racial hatred, the different standards for incitement to religious hatred used by the CPS allow the far-right to persist in spewing its vitriol.

In fact, the far-right relies on online platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter, to organise, recruit, and spread their message. A recent Faith Matters report explores how Britain First followers use Facebook to voice anti-Muslim views. The use of online platforms by the far-right and other anti-Muslim groups puts a strain on organisations and police forces. In fact, 599 of 734 reports of anti-Muslim hate received by Tell MAMA were online. Online social media platforms should be made accountable for investing in social cohesion as hate is often a by-product of their services. MP’s should begin a conversation with these companies and encourage them to invest in our communities and work to counter hate when it appears on the platform, in addition to making their terms of use simpler and easier for users to understand.

Finally, to truly and effectively counter prejudice, education on hate must be delivered at the primary and secondary school levels. The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe has provided clear guidelines for implementing education countering anti-Muslim hate in schools, giving clear ideas for curriculum as well as teacher training. MP’s must take the lead in pressuring Ofsted to implement these procedures to protect young people from hateful rhetoric against any faith, disability, or sexual orientation. Engaging students in lessons on hate will go a long way in countering anti-Muslim hate in the long-term.

MP’s can make a difference on Islamophobia by working to pressure police forces to record anti-Muslim hate separately and working with government and private sector partners to invest in countering hate at the community level. MP’s can review the law around incitement to religious hatred that allows anti-Muslim hate to proliferate on the far-right. Finally, and most importantly, MP’s can influence Ofsted and schools in their constituencies to implement training to counter anti-Muslim hate.