Idea’s Hub: Challenging Islamophobia: The video that went viral with a Message of Hate

By Myriam Francois|October 21, 2015|Ideas Hub|0 comments


Dr Imran Awan and Dr Irene Zempi (above)

Now that hate crime awareness week has gone, it’s time for deep reflection and also action in how best we tackle intolerance, bigotry, prejudice and discrimination. Crucially, the British Prime Minister, David Cameron announced that the Government will now make it a legal requirement for all UK police forces to record Islamophobia as a separate category of crime.  This means that now Islamophobic hate crime falls in line with anti-Semitic attacks targeting Jews.  Indeed, the number of religious hate crimes recorded in England and Wales in 2013/14 had soared by 45% on the previous year and race hate crimes in total were up 4% (35,889 to 37,484) following the murder of Lee Rigby.  We argue that having a separate category which breaks down religious-based hate crime is a step in the right direction and we hope will break down some of the barriers towards reporting hate crime. 

On Monday, we also launched our report into anti-Muslim hate crime in Parliament alongside Tell MAMA (Measuring Anti-Muslim Attacks) where we presented evidence about online and offline experiences of anti-Muslim hate crime in the UK.  Our participants reported a range of anti-Muslim hate experiences from abuse they suffered online where they were threatened with violence to offline abuse where they suffered verbal and physical abuse on the street.  In one case a women was punched, kicked and had her headscarf (hijab) pulled off. In another case, a female participant was threatened by someone on the street who wanted ‘to blow her face off’.   Additionally, we heard disturbing accounts of how Muslim men had also suffered anti-Muslim hostility in the workplace. In one case, a participant described how his work colleagues had locked the room where he was praying. Typically, male participants felt too scared to report it to the police in case people perceived them as being ‘weak’ whilst female participants felt that the police would not take it seriously. In Hira’s case, she told us that: ‘I asked the person abusing me to stop but he wouldn’t. Then they dropped alcohol on my coat…People were watching but they ignored it. No one wanted to help.”

One of our key findings was how many participants we spoke to felt that bystanders and onlookers did not help them.  This is best epitomised in a recent video that was posted on Facebook last week which showed a woman shouting anti-Muslim abuse at Muslim women on a bus in London. The video had received over 700,000 views and the women who suffered this abuse mentioned how she felt afraid and upset that no one actually came forward to help them.

Moreover, we also found that the prevalence of anti-Muslim hate crimes is influenced by ‘trigger’ events of local, national and international significance. Terrorist attacks carried out by individuals who identify themselves as being Muslim or acting in the name of Islam – such as the Woolwich attack, the atrocities committed by ISIS and attacks around the world such as Sydney, the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris, and attacks in Copenhagen and Tunisia – induced a significant increase in participants’ online and offline anti-Muslim hate crime experiences. Additionally, national scandals such as the grooming of young girls in Rotherham by groups of Pakistani men, and the alleged ‘Trojan Horse’ scandal in Birmingham framed as a ‘jihadist plot’ to take over schools, were also highlighted by participants as ‘trigger’ events, which increased their vulnerability to anti-Muslim hostility.

Participants also reported suffering anti-Muslim hostility on a daily basis, ranging from online threats and messages of hate to harassment, intimidation and violence in the physical world. They highlighted that the visibility of their Muslim identity was key to being identified as Muslims, and thus triggering anti-Muslim attacks.  As might be expected, experiences of anti-Muslim hate crime increased feelings of vulnerability, fear and insecurity amongst participants. They also suffered a range of psychological and emotional responses such as low confidence, depression and anxiety. The constant threat of anti-Muslim hate crime had forced participants to adopt a siege mentality and keep a low profile in order to reduce the potential for future attacks.  So whilst, we welcome the step in having a separate category to report anti-Muslim hate we also argue that to tackle Islamophobia requires challenging the changing people’s perceptions of how Muslims are viewed.



The Report – “We Fear for our Lives”: Offline and Online Experiences of Anti-Muslim Hostility can be downloaded from here.

The Research was a joint collaboration between Mr Imran Awan (Birmingham City University), Dr Irene Zempi (Nottingham Trent University) and Tell MAMA (Measuring Anti-Muslim Attacks).

A Video of Young Muslims who have experienced online and offline anti-Muslim hostility has been released alongside the report. It can be viewed here.

Imran Awan is Deputy Director of the Centre for Applied Criminology at Birmingham City University. His new book Islamophobia in Cyberspace (2015) is published by Ashgate. 

Irene Zempi is a lecturer in Criminology at Nottingham Trent University.


Share this Post:

About Myriam Francois

This is the official blog for the SOAS-CIS. It aims to encourage scholars to debate and engage with the wider public on the basis of their research and will foster discussions about mainly UK and also European Integration discourse as relates to Islam and British Muslims. We tweet @SoasCis

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>