Beyond the Incident: Highest Number of Annual Reports Logged by Tell MAMA Since Launch in 2012
Director of Tell MAMA, Iman Atta OBE says, “we are in deeply worrying times where people are looking for certainty and what they are getting is instability at a political and societal level. This means that at times like this, minority groups are the ones who suffer the anger of those looking to vent their fears, insecurities and concerns.
“We are seeing more aggressive street-based incidents, younger perpetrators, between the ages of 13-18, increased vandalism and international interference by well organised social media accounts playing groups off in the UK. More than ever, we need to come together and redouble our efforts against those who seek to divide and play communities off against each other”.
- In 2017 Tell MAMA recorded a total of 1,330 reports. Of these reports, 1,201 were verified as being anti-Muslim or Islamophobic in nature and as having occurred in the UK between January and December 2017. More than two-thirds of verified incidents occurred offline, or on a street-level (70%, n=839), which represents a 30% rise in offline reports when compared to the previous reporting period (n=643). An offline, or street-level, incident means that the incident occurred in-person between a victim (or property) and a perpetrator. There were therefore more street incidents of anti-Muslim hatred reported into Tell MAMA.
- Crimes or incidents that are classified as ‘online’ occurred on social media platforms such as Facebook or Twitter, or on other Internet-based platforms, were verified as having happened within the UK, and account for a third of reports in 2017 (n=362), which represents a 16.3% rise in reports when compared to the previous year (n=311). This small rise can be partially attributed to the way in which ideologically-motivated accounts felt emboldened by major trigger events, (such as terrorist attacks) and broader Islamophobic discourses in the public sphere.
- The ‘online hate’ figure, however, should be viewed as part of a wider trend in our datasets where there has been a marked shift towards more serious offline incidents such as physical attacks, threatening behaviour and abuse more generally, along with a growing awareness of Tell MAMA in Muslim communities, among key stakeholders, and partners, resulting in a greater willingness amongst victims and witnesses to report.
- Tell MAMA has listed in its annual report examples of ‘Twitter bots’ that have sought to cause disruption and division in community perceptions and which have actively promoted anti-Muslim hatred. One such Twitter account was @DavidJo52951945 . Responses to the rhetoric on this account, called for violent action against Islamic institutions and on August 30th 2017, the Times reported that this bot originated from Russia. Furthermore, a Twitter account called @SouthLoneStar, which had amassed some 16,500 followers, was responsible in starting a global trend after the Westminster terrorist attack.
The @SouthLoneStar account made several tweets about the terror attack on Westminster Bridge before sharing the photo of a Muslim woman walking across the bridge on a mobile phone, just after the vehicle had mown down pedestrians. It used the major hashtags (#PrayForLondon and #Westminster) to post tweets which described Islam as a ‘cult of death’ and added the #BanIslam hashtag. An earlier tweet called for Islam to be ‘outlawed’. An archive of the @SouthLoneStar account in January 2017 revealed many pro-Trump tweets and how the account had followed a far-right account named @pepethetroll, which remains active on the platform. Nor was the anti-Muslim content specific to the United States or even Britain. Further archive research of the account reveals that the @SouthLoneStar had attempted to stir-up anti-Muslim views in other European countries. For example, on 11 March 2017, @SouthLoneStar used the ‘#BanIslam’ and ‘#Rotterdam’ hashtags in a tweet which shared an image of about Muslim conquests and the Crusades.
The Guardian reported that the @SouthLoneStar account was the “creation of the Internet Research Agency, a Russian “troll army” based in St Petersburg. This is where, in rooms of about 20 people working 12-hour shifts for pay of between 45,000 and 65,000 rubles a month (£575-£830), a modern disinformation campaign is crafted.” Whilst these are some examples of Twitter and social media accounts promoting direct anti-Muslim hatred, we need to maintain vigilance against foreign interference, in these cases, emanating from Russia, which seek to promote division and intolerance in the UK.
- Social media agencies such as Twitter conduct a haphazard removal process for content. Our report highlights inaction from Twitter even on material that glorifies anti-Muslim hatred and violence against Muslims and Islamic institutions. Furthermore, Twitter’s inactivity in removing anti-Muslim hate material is deeply worrying and shows a wanton lack of desire to understand this hatred on its platform. Twitter has also demonstrated to us in Tell MAMA, its inability to stop individuals opening up new accounts repeatedly, when they have been banned from using the platform. In one case, a victim had to report in eleven separate accounts for harassment and with Twitter unable to stop the creation of new accounts and even dismissing reports on the same individual when multiple accounts linked to him were reported in through the ‘reporting in’ channels for Twitter.
- In 2017, vandalism replaced threatening behaviour as the third most common anti-Muslim hate incident. There was a 56% increase in anti-Muslim vandalism when compared with 2016, with one in ten ‘real-world’ incidents being classed as vandalism. (The most widely reported anti-Muslim hate incident was classified as ‘abusive behaviour’ with the second most reported frequency of incident classed as a ‘physical attack’. This demonstrated a rise in physical intimidation and actions against Muslim faith institutions and property.) Discrimination was the fourth most common anti-Muslim incident reported to Tell MAMA in 2017, with a 77% increase in incidents when compared to 2016. This category included mistreatment, denial of opportunities or denial of services based on Islamophobic prejudice, some of which was institutional in nature.
- Places of Anti-Muslim Hate Incidents: Consistent with previous years, the largest proportion of street-based incidents took place within public areas such as parks and shopping areas and the second most common place for incidents was public transport networks, such as trams, buses etc.
- Gender Variances in Attacks: 2017 data showed that at a street level nearly 6 out of 10 victims of anti-Muslim hate were women and 8 in 10 of the perpetrators were male, re-affirming previous findings over the years, that anti-Muslim hate or Islamophobia at a street level is also male on female abuse in addition to anti-Muslim hatred and bigotry.
- Victim Ethnicity – Predominantly Asian females
|Arab or North African||42||32||3||77|
|Mixed or multiple ethnicities||19||18||0||37|
|Any other Ethnic Group||0||2||0||2|
10). Perpetrator Ethnicity – Predominantly white males
|Mixed or multiple ethnicities||7||4||0||11|
|Any other ethnic group||3||2||0||5|
|Arab or North African||2||0||0||2|
11). Victim and Perpetrator Age Ranges
Where age group data was available, the most common age for victims was 26-35.
The most common age for perpetrators was 13-18.
 Texas Lone Star. Twitter post. 2016. Available at: https://web.archive.org/web/20170112123756/https://twitter.com/SouthLoneStar/ (retrieved 18/06/2018).
 Texas Lone Star. Twitter post. March 11 2017, 20:01. Available at: https://web.archive.org/web/20170112123756/https://twitter.com/SouthLoneStar/ (retrieved 18/06/2018).