Anti-Muslim hate crime in UK reached all-time high in 2017

Analysts explained the rise in Islamophobic attacks and incidents to the growth of far-right views in the United Kingdom, as well as so-called “trigger” incidents.
Sunday 29/07/2018
A long way to go. Members of the public gather at Islington Town Hall on the anniversary of the Finsbury Park attack in London, last June.  	   (AFP)
A long way to go. Members of the public gather at Islington Town Hall on the anniversary of the Finsbury Park attack in London, last June. (AFP)

LONDON - There were a record number of anti-Muslim attacks reported in the United Kingdom last year, a report by monitoring group Tell MAMA stated, with women being disproportionately targeted.

In a report published July 23, Tell MAMA noted a surge in Islamophobic incidents in 2017, with 1,201 verified reports, a rise of 27% compared to the year before. The report said 57.5% of incidents targeted females with 64.6% of the alleged perpetrators being male.

Tell MAMA is a national project that has been recording and measuring anti-Muslim incidents in the United Kingdom and assisting victims of Islamophobia since 2012. The latest report detailed various categories of alleged anti-Muslim incidents, including abusive behaviour to physical attacks but noted that “street-level” incidents were the most common with more than two-thirds of cases involving altercations in public or the vandalism of Muslim-owned properties.

“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,” Tell MAMA Director Iman Atta said in a release.

“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.”

Analysts explained the rise in Islamophobic attacks and incidents to the growth of far-right views in the United Kingdom, as well as so-called “trigger” incidents, including the London and Manchester terrorist attacks last year, which prompted a backlash of anti-Muslim abuse.

In the week following the Manchester Arena attack, Tell MAMA reported a 700% increase in reports of anti-Muslim incidents. The report partly blamed inflammatory media coverage, warning that this can “legitimise racist, xenophobic and Islamophobic prejudice.”

“Individuals with underlying prejudice may feel emboldened to victimise those they feel to be deserving of abuse so as to defend the status of the dominant ‘in-group’. The government and media outlets must consider how their choice of language influences wider public discourse,” the report said.

The report said that while “street level” or “offline” incidents had increased 30% since 2016, online attacks increased 16%. Tell MAMA called on police and social media companies to be “mindful of potentially criminal incitement made on [social media] platforms.”

Tell MAMA specifically called out Facebook and Twitter to uphold community standards and be more proactive to suspend accounts found to be propagating hate speech.

“It is partly driven by terrorism, partly by groups who just want to divide communities, we have social media and we have politicians who seek to blame migrants,” Tell MAMA founder Fiyaz Mughal told Britain’s Independent newspaper. “Anti-Muslim rhetoric is bleeding into the political landscape — it emboldens people.”

Tell MAMA has backed calls for a formal inquiry into alleged incidents of Islamophobia in the Conservative Party and said Conservatives should carry out a “root-and-branch” review to ensure that any party members or candidates who subscribe to bigoted, racist, Islamophobic or prejudiced views are expelled.

Speaking at the release of the report, UK Communities Secretary James Brokenshire acknowledged that Islamophobia was a major challenge for the United Kingdom.

“In recent months, we’ve seen some abhorrent incidents of Islamophobia — such as the Punish a Muslim Day letters. This is utterly unacceptable and it will not be tolerated,” he said.

“We need to do more to ensure that British Muslims feel safe to go about their lives as much as anyone else. Islamophobia has no place in our society. It does not reflect our British values of freedom of religion and freedom of expression. It is unacceptable and it will not be tolerated.”

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