Faith under attack
Towards the end of 2015, the Home Office published hate crime figures for England and Wales. The total number of hate crimes recorded by the police was 52,528, a significant increase on the previous year. Of these, 82% were racially motivated crimes and 6% were religious hate crimes. As can be seen from these figures, faith-based hate crime has risen and is continuing to rise particularly against Muslims. One only has to read the papers to see that attacks against Muslims have become commonplace – an almost daily occurrence – and that Muslim women are more often than not the target of these attacks. Research conducted by Tell MAMA in 2014/2015 revealed that Muslim women who wear the hijab or niqab suffer more hate crime incidents compared to Muslim men.
Just a couple of weeks ago, The Evening Standard reported that a Muslim woman, a student at King’s College London, had her niqab ripped off outside the Strand campus. The woman was part of a group of students who had been running a stall for Discover Islam week. The group were confronted by two men and subjected to aggressive behaviour that included racist taunting. The woman’s niqab was pulled off after one of the men questioned her antagonistically “Why are you wearing that on your face?” proceeding to tell her that “I shouldn’t have to see this on my streets.”
The day prior to this incident, in the same paper, it was revealed that the police are called to four racist incidents on London Tubes and trains every week. Last year, the Islamic Human Rights Commission expressed concern over rising Islamophobia, stating that ongoing Islamic hate-crimes are ‘creating an environment of hate.’ The negative effects of Islamophobia are multi-faceted; an article in the Huffington Post last weekend looked at how Islamophobia is affecting the mental health of young South Asians in the West based on a study carried out in 2012. This included non-Muslims i.e. Hindus and Sikhs who are being mistaken for Muslims. The effects of Islamophobia on mental health include depression and anxiety. However, it’s not only active discrimination that causes these but the knowledge that society fears and shuns your community.
The Muslim community are responding to increasing Islamophobia in different ways. In the US, Muslim women are training in self-defence in order to protect themselves from potential attacks. However, whilst it’s important for Muslim women to learn how to protect themselves, it’s crucial that Islamophobic attacks are reported so that further incidents can be prevented and offenders are brought to justice.
Hate crimes and / or incidents often go unreported for a number of reasons and these reasons must be addressed. It’s not only important to raise awareness of hate crime and to encourage the reporting of it but also for the police to engage more with the communities affected and develop a relationship whereby these communities feel safe to report hate crime and confident that their report will be dealt with seriously.
JAN Trust works at the grassroots level with women and young people from marginalised communities many of whom have experienced hate crime and other incidents. Through our projects and programmes that work with these communities we are given ample anecdotal evidence of growing anti-Muslim hate crime. This is why JAN Trust seeks to educate its users about hate crime – how to report it and why it is important to report it so that it can be combatted.
To find out further about our work on hate crime and Islamophobia, please visit: www.saynotohatecrime.org.