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16 July 2012
Results from first official anti-Muslim violence helpline
'TELL MAMA' project interim findings
The majority of Muslims being physically attacked, harassed or intimidated because of their faith are women, according to interim results from the UK's first ever 'official' anti-Muslim violence helpline.
Victims have included children as well as pensioners in their 80s. Even Baroness Warsi, the co-chairman of the Conservative Party, and socialite and journalist Jemima Khan, have been subject to online threats picked up and reported to the police by the TELL MAMA (Measuring Anti-Muslim Attacks) campaign.
TELL MAMA, which was set up with Government backing at the end of February by interfaith organisation Faith Matters, has chronicled over 140 cases to date and led to the arrests of three far-right English Defence League (EDL) supporters, with more cases and arrests likely in the coming months. Approximately 75% of the cases involve female victims, with far-right British National Party (BNP) or EDL members linked to one-third (33%) of all incidents.
The helpline records a disturbing picture of low-level anti-Muslim harassment: incidents in the workplace, in the street, between neighbours and particularly online, which may not always hit the headlines but have a devastating effect on peoples’ lives.
Said Fiyaz Mugal, director of Faith Matters:
"My colleagues and I have been shocked at the amount of hate that is online, particularly anti-Muslim prejudice and racial hate.
"We have seen enormous activity, by both men and women, who think that pouring out this prejudice, some of it highly inflammatory, is somehow acceptable. They seem to think that by posting online they can simply walk away from their actions. We will ensure that as far as possible they are held to account by the appropriate authorities.
Mughal said that the majority of those physically attacked were Muslim women, wearing either wear the hijab (covering their head out of religious beliefs) or niqab (full face covering).
"In one such case reported to us," he said, "a Somali woman walking down the road had dog faeces placed on her head by a young white male, which was only noticed after she entered a local shop. In another, a Muslim woman and her family have been repeatedly harassed by white neighbours, in an escalating series of incidents leading to serious assault."
Many of the incidents being perpetrated are carried out by white men in their 20s to 50s, specifically targeting Muslim women. Yet when challenged these men tended to justify their actions, Mughal said, by claiming that these women were "oppressed, ignorant and abused".
"Such vile attacks leave their victims feeling vulnerable and with a lasting sense of fear," he added.
There have been clusters of attacks in London, the West Midlands and Greater Manchester area, plus Luton. This may be due to higher concentration of Muslims in those areas – the picture will become clearer as the project progresses.
There appears to be far-right English Defence League (EDL) or British National Party (BNP) involvement in one third (33%) of all cases recorded so far.
Many EDL supporters have taken to social media, such as Facebook or Twitter, to post inflammatory messages, including one member who threatened Conservative Party co-chairman Baroness Warsi via his Facebook account (and was subsequently reported to police by TELL MAMA). Others have vocalised support for the EDL during an attack or incident. Three EDL supporters have so far been arrested as a direct result of TELL MAMA's work.
Several other incidents (just over 10% of all cases) have included attacks on mosque buildings, with some attackers even posting pictures of the attacks on their social media accounts and 'liking' the images on the same page. As a result, Mughal said he was encouraging all mosques to install CCTV.
A further quarter of cases involved dissemination of anti-Muslim literature. There have also been hate calls recorded to the line itself. One caller rang the helpline 14 times and threatened staff repeatedly.
“There remains much more work to do,” said Fiyaz Mughal. “However, despite agreeing to fund the project for one year, the Government has declined to renew funding from October this year. We just hope they will reconsider, or that other donors will come on board to support what we believe is a vital project.”
Additional comments from Nick Lowles, chief executive of the HOPE not hatenetwork (which monitors extreme Right activity):
“These interim results from TELL MAMA give lie to the claims by the EDL’s leadership that they are somehow just opposed to ‘Islamic extremism’. The actions of their supporters clearly show the level of hatred, and cowardice, they show to Muslims – particularly vulnerable Muslim women.
“As research has shown recently, Muslims are in fact better-integrated in British society than many have traditionally understood or believed. We must improve monitoring particularly of online hate, and improve community relations at all levels in society. I just hope that the Government will continue to support this important initiative.”
Round up of key findings