Two months on from the launch of the first project to Measure Anti-Muslim Attacks (TELL MAMA), we talk to Fiyaz Mughal, Founder and Director of Faith Matters about some of the findings.
Since the launch of the TELL MAMA (Measuring Anti-Muslim Attacks) campaign on February 21, we have supported a number of individuals who have suffered anti-Muslim incidents. These have ranged from young people aged 12 who have been verbally abused, through to mosque executive committee members who made contact with us on a series of sustained attacks against their mosque, attacks that have caused damage and distress to the mosque and congregants. Reports have come in from every corner of England and they continue to come in via our web-site, www.tellmamauk.org, through SMS, email, Twitter and Facebook feeds. Our initial findings are that most of the anti-Muslim incidents are low-level incidents around name calling and verbal abuse, followed by threats and anti-Muslim literature. Not far behind are attacks against mosques and which are hard to prosecute since many mosques do not employ CCTV for security and protection and existing CCTV cameras are usually focussed on crime hotspots in areas where there is high footfall.
We have also found that most of the people who suffer these anti-Muslim incidents are Muslim women who visibly wear the hijab and that attacks are clustered between 7–9am in the morning and 3pm – 9pm in the evening. This may well relate to when people are going to work, dropping off children at school and when people are generally active on the streets. Also, of interest to us has been the vast amount of anti-Muslim literature on the web. Whilst we cannot cover all of the comments and statements on-line, we have managed to track and report racist statements, which have amounted to incitement to violence. For example, there were two incidences online where threats were made to kill Muslim babies. A graphic to 'Clean up Britain' – by bombing mosques, was also promoted. We have also provided a witness statement in one of these cases and will support any prosecution of the individuals involved. We have received information suggesting that some or all of these people may be members of the English Defence League (EDL). What these cases also show is that people consider that they can post anything online, including inciting violence against communities and whilst the vast majority of us would find these views repugnant, there are those who think that they have the right to post views which are dangerous and discriminatory.
Since we started this work we did not realise that our work would draw in such interest from Far Right groups in the US, as well as in the UK and we have seen co-ordinated action and threats made by web-sites related to such groups against our work. What is clear is that these groups communicate with each other regularly and work closely. If there is anything, we should not be complacent against the threat of such groups, or of any group which wants to promote division, discrimination and hostility against communities. We all deserve to live without fear and with dignity and that is what our project ultimately tries to support.