9515Islamophobia in UK: As Hate Crimes Rise, Brit ish Muslims Say They’re Becoming More Insul ar
- Feb 16, 2014As Hate Crimes Rise, British Muslims Say They’re Becoming More Insular
By STEVEN ERLANGERFEB. 13, 2014
BIRMINGHAM, England — Alum Rock, a neighborhood of Birmingham, looks the way Pakistan might, if Pakistan were under gray northern skies and British rule.
The streets are lively but orderly, with shops that provide the largely South Asian population with most of its needs. The huge Pak Supermarket, with its 10-kilogram bags of spices and rices, is matched by the nearby Pak Pharmacy. Nearly every face is South Asian, and people wear a vibrant mixture of clothing, from Western styles to head scarves, knitted caps and full-face veils, or niqabs.
But the Muslims of Alum Rock, Washwood Heath and Sparkbrook, who make up most of the more than 21 percent of Birmingham’s population who declare Islam as their religion, are newly uneasy, they say. The backlash from the killing of a white soldier, Lee Rigby, in London in May by two fanatical young British Muslims, combined with anxieties about the flow of jihadis between Britain and Syria and the sometimes harshly anti-immigrant tone of leading British politicians have combined to create a new wariness among British Muslims.
“It is a less comfortable country than it used to be,” said Sadruddin Ali, 35, born and raised here.
Anti-Muslim hate crimes are up, the police and Muslim advocacy groups say. In response, many British Muslims say they are becoming more insular and more reluctant to leave their areas of Britain’s big cities, where they are among other Muslims and South Asians.
To many Muslims and non-Muslims, that is a worrying trend in what is considered to be a generally tolerant country as it heads toward the 2015 general election. A divided Conservative Party has a populist, anti-immigration party to its right in the U.K. Independence Party, and even the opposition Labour Party is supporting restrictions on benefits for immigrants.
“There is more hostility and more aggression,” Mr. Ali said.
He mentioned the firebombing of a nearby mosque after the Rigby killing, as well as the fatal stabbing in April of Mohammed Saleem, 82, as he left a local mosque. His attacker was a recent Ukrainian immigrant, who also placed three small bombs outside mosques. In June, a police officer and three other people were stabbed outside another Birmingham mosque.
In other parts of Britain, Mr. Ali said, “I feel a bit intimidated and don’t feel welcome, to be honest.” When he travels, he is often pulled aside at the airport for special questioning, he said, adding that this happened “even when I was cleanshaven.”
Mohammad Naseem, chairman of the Central Mosque in Birmingham, one of Britain’s largest, is 89. Born under British colonialism, he served as a doctor in the British Army and came here in 1959. He said he understands why Muslims are uneasy and defensive these days.
“When you go outside the boundary, you’re not sure where you stand,” he said. He said he sees the new fashion for Islamic head covering and veils less as religious than as a reaction to outside pressure. “When you’re being downgraded or threatened,” he said, “there is a natural reaction to hit back and say, ‘This is my identity.’ ”
In London, anti-Muslim episodes rose from 318 in 2011 and 336 in 2012 to 500 by mid-November in 2013, the police reported. The Greater Manchester Police recorded 130 offenses in 2013 compared with 75 in 2012. The West Midlands Police force, which covers Birmingham, reported in response to a freedom of information act request that there were 26 anti-Islamic hate crimes in 2011, 21 in 2012 and 29 through October 2013.
Tell MAMA, an advocacy group that monitors anti-Muslim episodes nationwide (MAMA stands for “measuring anti-Muslim attacks), said that such episodes had almost doubled in a year, with a surge after the Rigby killing, to nearly 1,000 cases. But the group does not separate online attacks from physical ones.
It is not clear how the current tensions will affect what some analysts say has been a slow but gradual trend of greater racial understanding in Britain, though periodically interrupted by racial and ethnic eruptions of hostility. News media attention to immigration from within the European Union has also helped dilute the focus on Muslims.
“Islamophobia intensifies after big events like 9/11, 7/7 and the Lee Rigby murder, and anti-Muslim hate crimes spike,” said Humayun Ansari, a professor of Islamic history at Royal Holloway, University of London, referring to the July 7, 2005, bomb attacks in London. “Then it actually fades away and dies down to a much lower level of intensity.”
But younger Muslims, like Sameera Hussain, 19, a student who wears a head scarf, said she sometimes got insulting or aggressive comments when she traveled outside her community, things like, “We’ll take your scarf and wrap it around your neck.”
Mohammed Wagas, 18, said he feels he is treated differently by the police, who in his opinion stop Muslim drivers “with nice cars” more often than other people. “Oh, you know, he’s brown, he’s going to be doing drugs, that’s why he’s rolling in a big car.”
Somaya Cheraitia described moving to a predominantly white area; casual insults intensified when she started to wear the niqab two years ago. “I was very different to what they knew, and I was an easy target,” she said. Stones were thrown at her family house and lit firecrackers put through the front mail slot teenagers grabbed her mother’s groceries and spilled them on the ground, yelling: “You’re rubbish anyway.”
Then a group of young women attacked her, she said, some trying to untie her niqab while another set her dog on Ms. Cheraitia, saying, “You’re both of the same breed.” When they managed to uncover her face, she remembers, one said: “Oh, she’s ugly anyway, look.”
She was shaken, and decided to stop wearing the niqab. “It was too much,” she said. “I felt like I didn’t belong, even if it’s your home. It was emotionally draining.” She said: “I wasn’t safe anywhere. I wanted to be strong in my worship to Allah,” but her fear “was too strong,” and she moved back to more comfortable East London less than a year ago.
Mr. Naseem noted that anti-Muslim fear and hatred went back to the Crusades, with pubs called “Turk’s Head” or “Saracen’s Head,” but he attributes most anti-Islam and anti-immigration commentary to political language devised to win votes.
But for all the problems, he said, Britain is seen by many Muslims as offering security and liberty.
“Here, there is a trust in the law, and it is a lawful country, no matter how deceiving the government may be,” he said.
Muhammad Shakeel, 29, is among the many Muslims who are happy to be here. He came from Pakistan five years ago and works in a chicken factory alongside other immigrants, mostly Asian and Polish. Married to a Pakistani woman who has been here 10 years, he thinks Britain is fine.
“It’s not safe in Pakistan,” he said. “It’s very dangerous.” Here in the “Balti triangle,” as the neighborhood known, he feels he can construct a decent life. “There are good rules in this country,” he said. “Some people have prejudice, but mostly they are very nice. This is a safe country.”
Rizwan Syed contributed reporting from Birmingham and London, and Kimiko de Freytas-Tamura from London.
Ukip MEP calls for Muslims to sign a non-violence charter
UKIP leader Nigel Farage has rejected calls from one of his MEPs that Muslims should sign a charter rejecting violence.
By: Owen Bennett - Political ReporterPublished: Wed, February 5, 2014
Gerard Batten, who sits on the party's National Executive Committee, told The Guardian that he stood by the "charter of Muslim understanding" which he co-authored in 2006 and which states that parts of the Koran which promote "violent physical jihad" should be regarded as "inapplicable, invalid and non-Islamic".
Mr Farage has distanced himself from the "private publication", but the controversy comes just weeks after he vowed to professionalise the party and root out "Walter Mitty types".
Mr Batten's comments led the Tory leader in the European Parliament, Syed Kamall, who is himself a Muslim, to leave a letter on Mr Batten's empty seat at the Parliament chamber in Strasbourg, offering him a guarantee that he had no intention to commit acts of violence or promote extremism.
"Do you have a form I can sign already?" asked Mr Kamall. "I am anxious to assure you that I have no intention of mounting any attacks on unsuspecting infidels, nor of attempting to radicalise you or anyone else.
"If the forms aren't ready yet, perhaps you would take this note as my guarantee? My wife and family would be most reassured to know you will allow me to stay in Britain, especially since I was born here. Please feel free to drop into my office to discuss this over a cup of tea. I promise you will be entirely safe."
The chief executive of Muslim thinktank the Ramadhan Foundation, Mohammed Shafiq, said that suggesting that one particular community should be required to sign a "loyalty pledge" against violence was "offensive and an insult to all decent people".
Liberal Democrat MEP Baroness Ludford, who speaks for the party on justice and human rights, said: "Gerard Batten's comments rip apart Ukip's pretence to be Eurosceptic but not racist.
"His offensive blanket stereotyping of Muslims as jihadists speaks volumes about Ukip's extremism and should warn voters that voting Ukip means associating with hatred and Islamophobia."
In a statement, Mr Farage said: "This was a private publication from Gerard Batten in 2006 and its contents are not and never have been Ukip policy. No such policy proposals would have been accepted by Ukip in any case. Ukip believes in treating people equally."
Today, Ukip officially expelled the councillor who blamed the country's floods on the legalising of gay marriage from the party.
David Silvester, 73, made the comments in a letter to his local newspaper in Henley-on-Thames last month.
At an extraordinary meeting of the town council last night, members voted unanimously to distance themselves from their councillor colleague's views.
Bizarrely, Mr Silvester also voted for the motion.
However, he took the floor at the meeting to refuse to resign as a councillor and outspokenly called for gay people to seek repentence from God, adding that he stood by his earlier comments in the Henley Standard.
Speaking to a packed town hall chamber, Mr Silvester said: "Never was it my intention to insult the gay community and I certainly apologise to them if personal insult has been their perception." He added that his aim had in fact been to criticise the Government for passing the Bill and ignoring "the national textbook, the Holy Bible."
"I have read that I am barmy to connect this to the weather - if that is the case then I am in good company," he said, citing senior bishops blaming floods on "abandonment" of bible teachings.
"The Jesus I serve welcomes all possible types of person, whether straight or gay," he said.
"All they have to do is come to him in repentance and faith."
In 2007, The Right Reverend Graham Dow, Bishop of Carlisle, argued that the floods that year were a judgment on society's moral decadence and the fact that "every type of lifestyle is now regarded as legitimate."
Mr Silvester said he was exercising his right to free speech by writing to the newspaper, which he claims held back his letter for three weeks and added his political and town council affiliations.
Islamophobia - Bigotry or Hypocrisy?
Posted: 20/01/2014 15:09
A lot has been written about this topic, is it real or is it a figment of the imagination of Muslims.
Islamophobia has been on the rise for some three decades with little or no action taken against it. The research on this strand of bigotry is extensive, yet what is most puzzling is the
inaction or even acknowledgement of the problem. An admission of the problem would require action, hence conversely ignoring it leaves us scope or inaction.
If we look at some simple facts, some 20 plus mosques were attacked post Woolwich. Never has a community nor their places of worship been subject to such hatred in Britain.
The sex grooming debate is another example of this, it lends itself to belief that it's just Muslim's abusing and grooming children. Yet we've had decades of expose re abuse in churches, personalities or other institutions that are not Muslim. The terrorist threat has been sold as a predominately Islamist based threat, yet Eurpol has consistently shown the biggest threat to Europe from terrorists comes from other strands. Research on the actual Bomb attacks or Explosives finds in Northern Ireland in the last two or three years may clear this debate for some with amnesia. This is not to say that there isn't a threat from so called Islamist terrorists. 'Home grown terrorists' is another new phrase invented to refer specifically to Muslims and not to others e.g. IRA or far right.Where were they born?
As a result some 4 million of our citizens are constantly held responsible for the actions of a few. They are treated as suspect communities e.g. CT legislation like S7 stops at ports. Daily attacks range from verbal, online, physical attacks or now even murders and bomb attacks to mosques. Why are the innocent 4 million rendered directly responsible for the actions of a few? Would it be right to demand that from other communities for individuals such as Sutcliffe, Shipman etc?
Regrettably, our media, government and the justice system takes little or no notice e.g. recent CJS stastics show the discrimination faced by BME and Muslims in the CJS. 'Tell Mama' an organisation that monitors and records hate offences against Muslims shows a damning trend. The BBC report from Bristol recently verified the discrimination faced by Muslims in a real life programme.
Government and institutions need to acknowledge the problem and thus an analysis will lead to some key solutions:
• Strategic thinking on how to deal with this
• Islamophobia to be on par with other forms of hate and discrimination
• Legislation that is fit for purpose
• The police, CPS and government need to connect and acknowledge reality on this topic rather than turning a blind eye to the real issues.
Everyone talks of 'them' and 'us' and the incompatibility of Islam with the west and democracy. This is highly inaccurate; referral to human rights within the Quran will show that there is no such clash. Indeed there is little adherence to Islamic values by so called Islamic countries. Islam, Christianity and Judaism have more in common than some would lead us to believe. Abrahamic strands of faith are called people of the book and not kaffirs or unbelievers.
Hate speakers who propagate this are well documented and are not just Muslims, some main stream media personalities and politicians would need to re-evaluate their stance. A read of Anders Breviks thoughts may shed some light on some in our society living in a darkened room, who perceive Muslims as a source of threat.
There needs to a consistent approach to hate crime or for that matter any problem, we cannot have a two tier system where one community is treated in an unfair manner. The revelations by Snowden show to what depth this inequality has stooped to. I could be forgiven to think that I'm living in another country or era. Britain does not and should not practice hypocrisy. We have been a fair and caring society but unfortunately recently we have harmed our core values. Evidence on our part in rendition adds to this debate or the alleged torture claims by some terrorist detainees.
We need to adhere to so called British values rather than talk of them as some politicians do on a regular basis when it suits.
Student gets 40 years for terror campaign against Muslims
Pavlo Lapshyn hunted down a Muslim to murder before he bombed three Midlands mosques to trigger a race war
The Guardian, Friday 25 October 2013 19.33 BST
A white supremacist who hoped to "ethnically cleanse" Muslims has been told he will serve at least 40 years imprisonment for a terror campaign in which he hunted down a Muslim to murder before he bombed three Midlands mosques aiming to kill and maim worshippers.
Pavlo Lapshyn, 25, came to Britain in April from Ukraine after winning a prize to further his studies. Instead he tried to trigger a race war, fuelled by extremist material on his computer – including a video game called "ethnic cleansing" which celebrated racist violence.
Within a day of arriving and starting a work placement in Birmingham, Lapshyn who was a PhD student, was viewing an extremist rightwing Russian website used by those imprisoned for racist crimes, including murder.
A day later he photographed himself with a Buffalo River hunting knife in his bedroom and three days later took it onto the streets, "intent on finding a Muslim to murder", Mr Justice Sweeney said as he sentenced Lapshyn.
His victim was Mohammed Saleem, 82, walking home from a mosque with the aid of a walking stick in Small Heath, Birmingham, just after 10pm.
Lapshyn approached the grandfather of 23 children from behind, and plunged the blade in so deep it reached the front of Saleem's body. Saleem collapsed, with one wound 18 cm deep.
Lapshyn had pleaded guilty on Monday at the Old Bailey to the terrorist campaign of murder and bombings across the West Midlands from April to July.
He confessed after his arrest that he was a violent racist and had parts for three more bomb attacks.
Photos and video recovered after his arrest revealed him experimenting with bombs in the Ukrainian countryside before he came to Britain. He had also researched where he could get materials in Birmingham to make improvised explosive devices.
He placed bombs outside mosques in Walsall and Wolverhampton in June, before packing his final device with nails which was aimed at worshippers entering Friday lunchtime prayers at Tipton mosque.
Three hundred people would have been in the path of the shrapnel that shot across the car park, leaving nails embedded in tree trunks. But the mosque had temporarily moved prayers back one hour.
The prosecution had said Lapshyn's crimes were so severe he should receive a whole life tariff .
But the judge said he was not sure Lapshyn murdered to "further a cause" but acted alone "motivated by your own extreme and appalling prejudices." Counter terrorism police say there is no sign the PhD student acted under the control and direction of anyone else and that he was self-radicalised.
Lapshyn was sentenced to a minimum term of 40 years, with sentences of 12 years for the three mosque bombings to run concurrently. He was sentenced by the same judge overseeing the case of two men accused of murdering Lee Rigby in May in a London street.
With Saleem's family in court, Mr Justice Sweeney told Lapshyn, who listened impasssively: "You clearly hold extreme rightwing white supremacist views, and you were motivated to commit the offences by religious and racial hatred in the hope that you would ignite racial conflict and cause Muslims to leave the area where you were living.
"Such views, hatreds and motivation are abhorrent to all right thinking people, and have no place whatsoever in our multi-faith and multicultural society."
In a victim impact statement Saleem's daughter Shazia said: "The murder has disabled our minds in every emotional way possible. Dad did not die of old age or illness: he died because he was stabbed violently in the back by a gutless coward."
Lapshyn confessed the murder during police interviews: "I have a racial hatred so I have a motivation, a racial motivation and racial hatred."
He believed a series of attacks would cause more damage with the aim that "the Muslims will have to leave our area".
It emerged that West Midlands police had investigated one of Saleem's children over the killing after receiving a false witness statement. He was eliminated from inquiries.
In a statement, the Muslim Council of Britain said of Lapshyn: "There will be some who will view his activities as those of a lone wolf.
"But in a summer that saw an unprecedented rise in attacks on mosques and Islamic institutions, it is important for all of us to challenge anti-Muslim hatred, just as we challenge those who wrongly use Islam to carry out acts of violence."
Assistant Chief Constable Marcus Beale, head of the West Midlands police counter-terrorism unit, said Lapshyn had shown no remorse or regret.
Why would anyone believe in the "Islamophobia industry"?
Two years ago, Sayeeda Warsi warned that anti-Muslim prejudice had “passed the dinner table test” and become socially acceptable. Yet we still debate whether Islamophobia exists at all.
BY SAMIRA SHACKLE PUBLISHED 03 OCTOBER 2013 14:37
The Harlow Islamic Centre in Essex is an unassuming building. A former community centre, set back from the main road, it has seen various incidents of vandalism over the years; youngsters misbehaving, nothing out of the ordinary. That all changed on Sunday 25 August, when three young men visited the mosque in the middle of the night, prised open the shuttered doors and windows to spray insulation foam underneath, and set it alight. Only minor damage was caused, but there were no two ways about it: this was pre-meditated.
“It was a racist attack,” says Ajaib Hussain, chair of the centre. “They came to target the mosque.” Three young men have since been charged. The damage was reparable, but the impact of the incident can still be felt. Extra security cameras have been installed at the centre, and regular police patrols started. “Our community was shocked, sad, and afraid that it would happen again,” says Hussein. “But we are resilient. The support from Muslims and non-Muslims in Harlow after the attack has been overwhelming.”
What happened in Harlow was by no means unique. On 5 June, a mosque and Somali community centre in Muswell Hill, north London, was burnt to the ground by arsonists. On 18 June, the Masjid-e-Noor in Gloucester was set alight. On 23 May, the windows at Maidenhead’s mosque were broken. The list goes on.
Since the brutal murder of soldier Lee Rigby in Woolwich on 22 May, 30 mosques in the UK have been attacked. In the five weeks immediately following the attack, the monitoring organisation Tell Mama reported a further 250 anti-Muslim incidents against individuals.
This spike in incidents, coupled with the on-going political controversy over the niqab (face veil), has meant that the term “Islamophobia” has been hotly debated. High profile names such as the atheist Richard Dawkins have said that racism against a religion cannot exist (“It is not a race… Islam is a religion and you can choose to leave it or join it”). In June, journalist Andrew Gilligan wrote an article claiming that anti-Muslim hate crime was being exaggerated by “the Islamophobia industry”.
So what exactly is Islamophobia, and how useful is the term? The Runnymede Trust’s Commission on British Muslims gives eight components. These include seeing Islam as a monolithic bloc that is static and unresponsive to change; seeing it as the “other”, with no values in common with other cultures and inferior to the west; seeing Islam and Muslims as violent, primitive, and supportive of terrorism; seeing it as a political ideology; using hostility to Islam to justify discrimination against and exclusion of Muslims; and seeing such hostility towards individual Muslims as natural or normal. The definition was written back in 1997, and remains broadly in use today, used by organisations such as the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia.
The Commission on British Muslims was set up in the mould of a similar group focusing on British Jews, formed in 1992. The aim was to take anti-Muslim prejudice as seriously as anti-Semitism, and to establish active policy steps to tackle it. Against this backdrop, arguing that one can’t be racist against a religion seems irrelevant.
Fiyaz Mughal is the director of Faith Matters, an organisation set up to promote inter-faith dialogue that also runs the Tell Mama project. Launched 18 months ago with funding from the Department for Communities and Local Government, this project is mapping and reporting incidents of anti-Muslim hate crime.
When we speak on the phone, he tells me that it is difficult to say whether there has been a general rise in Islamophobic incidents over the last few years because monitoring started relatively recently. The Metropolitan police force is currently the only one in the UK to keep a separate record of anti-Muslim crimes. Tell Mama receives about eight reports every single day (compared with around two or three when they launched in 2011).
“It’s very clear that a high number of incidents are taking place against Muslims in general,” says Mughal. “National or international incidents – like Woolwich – really spike the number of instances that get reported. This effect is cumulative over time. Post-Woolwich, the base line of incidents has not gone back down to what it was. Base line has reset itself to another level. That’s the concerning bit.”
The range of incidents recorded by Tell Mama and other monitoring groups range widely: from attacks on mosques, to violence against individuals, to verbal abuse, to online hatred. When Gilligan took issue with reports that anti-Muslim hate is on the rise, his main points were that many of the incidents were online only, and that others – such as hijab snatching – were “non-serious”.
“The police response to the online world is simply unacceptable,” says Mughal. “We are not talking about minor cases. In one incident, a man had knives on his Twitter picture, and suggested he wanted to go out and ‘slash Muslims’. The police did nothing. There is a laissez-faire approach to online abuse. The Crown Prosecution Service does not enforce and review the law consistently, due to the changing nature of what is happening. Not is there the political momentum behind fighting anti-Muslim prejudice.” It is worth noting that concerns about how online abuse is policed are not unique to anti-Muslim hate.
While arson attacks and petrol bombs at mosques are at the most extreme end of the spectrum, smaller incidents still create an atmosphere of fear and distress. “When I speak to people up north, they say that if there is something negative in their local press about Muslims, in the next few weeks there’ll be an attack or something happening in the street,” says Akeela Ahmed, a member of the government’s working group on Islamophobia. “Sometimes these things are at a low level – flour thrown at the mosque, or graffiti. I don’t think it was until Woolwich that people at a national level took notice.”
Around 70 per cent of incidents reported to Tell Mama involve women wearing headscarves: a visual marker of their religion. Equivalent monitoring groups in France and other European countries note the same trend.
Amina Malik is a 20 year old medical student who lives in London. She has worn a headscarf since she was 13, but has never experienced many problems – until mid-September. On 16 September, a judge ruled that a woman had to remove her niqab (full face veil) in court. This restarted a heated debate about whether such coverings have a place in a liberal society and whether a more far-reaching ban should be introduced. “I don’t cover my face, only my hair, but I felt uncomfortable seeing negative headlines about Muslims and Muslim women on the front pages every single day for a week,” says Malik.
On 20 September, as she was travelling to her home in west London, she sat in front of two men on the bus. “They were having a loud conversation about how Muslims shouldn’t be in this country if they wouldn’t live by British values. I felt edgy but I didn’t say anything and tried not to draw attention to myself.” The two men got off the bus at the same stop as her. “I didn’t think anything of it and tried to walk faster. One of them shouted ‘fucking Paki’ and I realised he was talking to me. They caught up with me and pulled off my headscarf from the back. I was so shaken that I just ran all the way home. I didn’t even stop to look at them.”
She did not report the crime. “There is a massive loss of confidence among Muslim communities,” says Mughal. Campaigners say that the police response to incidents against individuals falls far short, although at the most extreme end of the spectrum – where acts of terrorism are carried out against Muslims – it is far more efficient.
On 23 June, a group of worshippers arrived at the Aisha Mosque in Walsall to attend Friday prayers. They heard a loud bang, and thought that someone’s car engine may have exploded. One of the men looked underneath his car but didn’t see anything; they thought nothing of it. It was the next day that one of the men, back at the mosque, noticed a rucksack, and next to it, a device with wires attached to it. The imam called the police, who confirmed that it was an improvised bomb.
Pavlo Lapshyn, a 25 year old Ukrainian man, has subsequently been charged with planting the bomb at the Walsall mosque, as well as placing similar devices in Tipton and Wolverhampton. He was also charged with the murder of Mohamed Saleem, a 75 year old grandfather who was stabbed in Birmingham just weeks before the Woolwich attack
Zia ul-Haq, a representative of the mosque, is philosophical. “There was no damage, no people were hurt. This sort of thing has never happened before in our mosque. The community was concerned there could be a repeat, but we told them to be calm, vigilant, and watchful. Don’t overreact, and don’t point the finger towards any group or party. We don’t want to look at everyone suspiciously and have kept our open door policy at the mosque.”
However, just like the mosque at Harlow, extra security measures – such as an upgrade in the CCTV system – have been introduced.
“These incidents can cause polarisation,” says Ahmed. “At a local level – which is where these things play out – communities can be divided.”
The Walsall mosque chose not to point fingers, but the incident was not without repercussions. “After the attacks in Tipton and Walsall, there were people in Birmingham talking about the need for Muslims to defend themselves, to ‘man up’, to learn self-defence,” says Ahmed. “In addition to this very obvious, divisive impact of such attacks, there is a psychological impact on Muslim communities. Anxiety is increased. Every time there is an attack at a national level, like Woolwich, people automatically think ‘I hope it’s not a Muslim’. When you find out it is someone who calls themselves a Muslim, people – especially women – are wary about the repercussions. It does affect people’s confidence.”
Sunny Hasan is a 41 year old civil servant from Sheffield. She contrasts the simple racism of her childhood, when the refrain “Paki go home” was commonly heard, to more insidious forms today. “After 9/11 happened, people began to say ‘it’s you Muslims who are fundamentally responsible for the ills in society right now’.”
Like many British Muslims, she resents being held responsible for incidents of Islamic terrorism. “It becomes boring. You become this repeat mantra of formulaic responses. There is this nonsensical approach – ‘forgive us, it’s our fault, all Muslims apologise’. Actually, I don’t apologise for the acts of people who I don’t identify as Muslims, who have said very inappropriately that they are doing this in the name of Allah.”
It is difficult to say whether a rise in reported anti-Muslim incidents is because of increased awareness of the crime, or because of an actual increase in attacks. Campaigners point to the influence of far-right groups such as the English Defence League (EDL) in worsening anti-Muslim sentiment. A recent study by Teeside University found that EDL supporters were involved in 70 per cent of cases of online Islamophobic incidents. Certainly, the group provides a ready-made, if misinformed, narrative about Islam, with cherry-picked quotes and factoids for supporters to repeat.
But perhaps the most worrying fact is how mainstream some of these views have become. Back in January, former Conservative Party co-chair Sayeeda Warsi warned that there was a "misinformed suspicion of people who follow Islam … perpetuated by certain sections of the media.” Two years before that, she warned that anti-Muslim prejudice had “passed the dinner table test” and become socially acceptable.
Ahmed echoes this view: “There are things you can say about Muslims and Islam which you would not say about other communities, and other faiths.” A look at a selection of headlines and quotes bears evidence to this. “A quarter of young British people ‘do not trust Muslims’” (BBC News); “The real Islamist threat to Britain comes from mass immigration and multiculturalism” (Daily Mail). Many statements such as these, routinely seen in the media, would fall foul of the Runnymede Trust’s eight-point definition of Islamophobia.
It is not just the media that is at fault. “Politicians play political football,” says Mughal. “It is quite easy to turn to xenophobia in a time of austerity. Politicians say that the problem with cohesion is that the Muslims are not doing it right, and deflect from the very tough questions raised by the economic crisis, like a lack of investment in housing stock and jobs.”
According to the latest figures, there are more than 2.7 million Muslims in the UK, making up around 4.6 per cent of the overall population. The majority are settled, integrated, and proud to be British. Attacks on mosques or individuals may be relatively rare, but this is by no means a fringe issue. “My question is, where does the state actually want Muslim communities to go with these matters?” says Mughal. “Tell Mama was set up with funding from DCLG – if the police are not responding to us, what the heck! Who are they going to respond to?” When an entire community is routinely scapegoated in a supposedly tolerant society, it should be a concern for everyone.
Islamophobia Amongst Young Revealed As Poll Shows More Than A Quarter 'Do Not Trust Muslims'
The Huffington Post UK | By Charlotte Meredith
Posted: 25/09/2013 12:41 BST | Updated: 25/09/2013 13:07 BST
One in four young people in Britain distrust Muslims and think the country would be better off without them, a new poll has shown.
Additionally, 16% said they didn't trust Hindus or Sikhs, 15% said they didn't trust Jewish people, that figure was 13% for Buddhists and 12% said they didn't trust Christians.
Of the 1,000 people interviewed for a BBC Radio 1 Newsbeat poll, 44% said they believe Muslims did not share the same values as the rest of the population, while 28% said they felt Britain would be "better off" with fewer Muslims.
Some 60% of the 18 to 24-year-olds asked thought the British public had a negative image of Muslims, with 26% saying foreign terror groups were to blame for Islamophobia, compared to 21% who said the reason is UK Muslims who have committed acts of terror.
However, 48% agreed that Islam is a peaceful religion, while 23% said they blame the media for anti-Muslim feelings.
An adviser on anti-Muslim hatred said the findings suggested young people needed to mix more.
Akeela Ahmed, from the Cross-government Working Group on Anti-Muslim Hatred told the BBC: "These findings indicate that we need to ensure young people are mixing at local levels and that they're working on projects together so that people can get to know Muslims and vice versa."
The news follows a separate report revealing that a fifth of UK Muslims fear being attacked or discriminated against because of their race or religion.
The survey, by The Runnymede Trust charity, also found that instances of racial discrimination are still rife in the workplace for visible ethnic minorities.
Three out of every five people from ethnic minority backgrounds stated that they worry that discrimination due to the colour of their skin, their ethnic origin or religion will affect their opportunities in education, training, business or employment.
The Director of the trust, Rob Berkeley, said current attitudes towards muslims could lead to further divisions.
"Widespread distrust of Muslims is a very worrying trend in the UK," he told HuffPost UK.
"This distrust leads to the Muslim community feeling worried about being attacked, harassed or discriminated against because of their race or religion, with some reason given Muslims' poor outcomes in education and employment.
"This worry is likely to have an effect on their interaction with non-Muslims. Addressing this inequality must be a big part of improving social integration in the UK."
'The glass ceiling is incredibly low for Muslim women'
Prejudice based on their religious clothing and faith is creating extra barriers for workers in the UK
Muneera, a 19-year-old art student from London, wants to set up her own business selling her paintings. But she wears a headscarf, and she is concerned that it might be difficult. "I don't know if it'll be a real problem, or if it's all in my head. I want to know how to deal with it if people in the business world act differently towards me because of my scarf." Muneera's friend Nour, meanwhile, wants to be a doctor. "I don't really get career advice at college," she says. "So talking to other Muslim women helps. When I see them doing their own thing and getting on with their careers, it's really motivating."
Muneera and Nour went to the Urban Muslim Woman Show, an annual networking event that took place earlier this summer, in order to meet new contacts who might guide them in their careers. Like many Muslim women, they fear their professional identity may be distorted by the hijab and the presumptions people have about it.
Some of the barriers facing them affect all women, such as unequal pay and gender discrimination. But many Muslim women face extra difficulties, such as prejudice based on their religious clothing and faith, while others feel sidelined in terms of career advice or guidance.
In December last year, an all-party parliamentary report found Muslim women of south Asian origin are susceptible to triple discrimination because of their gender, ethnicity and religion. The report, published by the Runnymede Trust, expressed concern that Pakistani and Bangladeshi women were more likely to be made redundant in comparison with other women and found employers made generic stereotypes about them, such as expecting them to want to stop working after having children. Many Muslim women interviewed for the report spoke of disparaging comments made about their dress. Others, including second-generation, highly-educated graduates, said job offers only materialised after they removed their hijabs; many felt written off by recruitment companies.
When Fauzia, 32, first started work in the banking sector as a graduate, she was determined to make a good impression on her predominately male colleagues. But she found they didn't take her seriously and rarely noted her contributions. She feels certain it was because she was not just the only woman in the office, but also because she wore a headscarf.
"They used to refer to me as 'the girl with the sheet on her head'. They thought it was funny, but it was incredibly hurtful," says Fauzia. "I felt belittled every day. It was like they didn't want to acknowledge me as a real person by using my name."
Sara Khan from the Muslim women's rights group Inspire says: "The glass ceiling is incredibly low for Muslim women. The Muslim women I work with say that they don't understand why they aren't given the same chances as other women. They question whether it's their name or the way they dress."
Numerous recommendations were put forward after the publication of the Runnymede Trust report, such as increasing the take-up of "blankname" job application forms. But few, if any, of the report's recommendations have been implemented.
"It's incredibly complex," says Khan. "The transition from leaving education to entering the labour market is where Muslim women can find themselves disadvantaged. There's an assumption that Muslim women will marry younger and have children younger whereas, really, there are so many Muslim women who want to work. Recruitment agencies could do a lot more with graduate Muslim women in terms of putting them forward for positions, but job centres also have a role to play in helping women with writing their CV and basic interview skills."
Many Muslim women, like Muneera and Nour, are looking elsewhere for career advice. Initiatives like the Muslim Women's Network, which offers training schemes and highlights female role models, and the Urban Muslim Woman Show are proving popular.
Nuna, a 38-year-old banker, says she has never encountered discrimination in her career (she does not wear a headscarf). But she feels it is important for Muslim women to support each other: "What's missing for me is simply having a concentration of like-minded Muslim women in the workplace. So surely it can only be a good thing to bring women who share similar beliefs together."
Who is the man with the mosque bomb tattoo? 'EDL member' poses brazenly with inking depicting explosion at Muslim place of worship
'EDL supporter' pictured with tattoo of a mosque being blown up
Picture taken at EDL rally in Birmingham at the weekend
Man can be seen lifting up his football shirt to reveal the image as he poses
Police arrested 20 demonstrators after officers came under attack
By DAILY MAIL REPORTER
PUBLISHED: 09:58, 24 July 2013 | UPDATED: 18:28, 24 July 2013
Grinning brazenly as he lifts up his shirt to reveal an inflammatory image of a mosque being blown up, this man was pictured openly with his offending tattoo at a far-right rally.
The man, who is believed to be a supporter of the English Defence League, is understood to have been pictured at the group's rally, in Birmingham, at the weekend.
The man lifted his football shirt to reveal the image of the Muslim place of worship with the word 'Boom!' written across it.
The image has sparked outrage after it was posted online.
It was taken at a demonstration in Birmingham, according to The Sun, where police made 20 arrests after officers came under attack on Saturday.
A 20-year-old woman has been charged with violent disorder and was due to appear in court earlier this week.
Two men were also charged with offences connected to the EDL rally and a counter-protest in Birmingham city centre.
Officers made a total of 20 arrests, mainly for public order breaches, after being pelted with cans, bottles, stones and other missiles during sporadic disorder.
Two men aged 26 and 22 have been bailed to appear before Walsall Magistrates' Court on August 9 charged with possessing offensive weapons.
A police spokesman said: 'Police enquiries are ongoing to see whether any other offences were committed during the demonstrations.
'The wealth of exceptional quality CCTV within the area is likely to provide significant investigative opportunities to bring a large number of offenders to justice for what, at times, appeared to be serious offences.
'There were a total of three hospital admissions for minor injuries, one of which was a police officer who received head injuries after being hit by bricks.
Muslim group demands tougher response to mosque attacks
Muslim Council of Britain says incidents mark 'crossing of a red line', as man charged over three explosions
The Guardian, Tuesday 23 July 2013 19.53 BST
One of Britain's largest Islamic groups has said a "dramatic escalation in violence" against British Muslims needs a much tougher response from the government.
Farooq Murad, secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), said the bombings of three Midlands mosques marked "the crossing of a red line".
On Tuesday a man was charged over the bomb attacks in June and July. Pavlo Lapshyn, 25, who was charged a day earlier with the terrorist-related murder of a Muslim pensioner, Mohammed Saleem, in Birmingham in April, appeared before City of Westminster magistrates court where the new charges were announced.
Lapsyn, a postgraduate student from Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine, was in Birmingham on a work placement. He was charged with carrying out a series of acts with the intention to commit acts of terrorism between 24 April and 18 July, related to three separate explosions in Walsall, Wolverhampton and Tipton. No one was injured in the explosions.
He was also charged with two offences of unlawfully and maliciously causing an explosion with the intent to endanger life or cause serious injury to a person or property.
The court heard that Lapsyn allegedly purchased chemicals to make explosive devices and modified mobile phones to act as detonators. He spoke only to confirm his name and was remanded in custody until another hearing this month.
The MCB said the murder of Drummer Lee Rigby in an alleged terrorist act in Woolwich, south London, in May had unleashed an increase in violence. A series of incidents had added to "a palpable sense of fear" among Muslim communities, it said.
"The community has patiently borne the brunt of these attacks despite condemning in the strongest possible terms the tragic murder of Fusilier Lee Rigby," Murad said. "Despite this spike in incidences, there has yet to be a co-ordinated national effort to ensure that these sorts of attacks never happen again. It cannot be right that a minority community is allowed to be targeted in this manner."
He added: "There is an urgent need for the government and police to respond with a co-ordinated national strategy so as to prevent further attacks."
Scotland Yard's counter-terrorism command is investigating an arson attack on a mosque in north London on 5 June. Graffiti reading "EDL" – a possible reference to the English Defence League – was found nearby.
The West Midlands explosions and the murder of Saleem, 82, are being investigated by the West Midlands counter-terrorism unit. Detectives are expected to arrive in Ukraine shortly to continue inquiries into Lapshyn.
On Sunday the home secretary, Theresa May, said: "I have been shocked and sickened at the brutal murder of Mohammed Saleem and recent attacks on mosques in the West Midlands, all of which are now being investigated as terrorist incidents.
"Just as we saw people coming together to denounce Woolwich, so we must come together and stand firm against extremism whatever form it takes."
Two held over suspected mosque bombing campaign in Midlands
Officers trying to establish whether there is any connection to far-right violent extremism
The Guardian, Friday 19 July 2013 20.37 BST
'Grown men look like they want to hit me': Tony Blair's Muslim convert sister-in-law Lauren Booth speaks of her fear in wake of Lee Rigby killing
Lauren Booth said she has felt 'scared' in public after the Lee Rigby killing
She said she wasn't treated differently when she first went out in traditional Islamic dress - but it has changed in the wake of the Woolwich killing
Half-sister of Cherie Blair converted to Islam two years ago
Miss Booth attacks Tony Blair for saying there is a 'problem within Islam'
By PAUL BENTLEY
PUBLISHED: 13:02, 19 June 2013 | UPDATED: 22:44, 19 June 2013
Counter-terror police investigate 'nail bomb' near Tipton mosque hours after Woolwich soldier Lee Rigby's funeral
No injuries have been reported but a cordon has been set up after nails and other debris discovered
LEWIS SMITH Author Biography Friday 12 July 2013
Islamophobia rises in British society
Politicians and the media are still fuelling Islamophobia, says Professor Humayun Ansari.
Last Modified: 08 Jul 2013 12:13
On the 8th anniversary of the 7/7 London bombings, and in the aftermath of the killing of British army soldier Lee Rigby, it is timely to assess how Islamophobia within Britain’s political landscape has evolved since that tragic day in July 2005. Much evidence suggests that Islamophobia has moved beyond small fringe far-right groups to being far more widespread across broad sections of the population.
While the majority of Britons certainly do not regard Muslims as terrorists or terrorist sympathisers, the proportion leaning towards this position has doubled since 7/7. In 2011, 75 percent viewed Islam as the most violent religion and 43 percent saw Muslims as fanatical. Worryingly, large segments of British society today believe that Muslims possess dual loyalties and the number of those who perceive Islam as a threat to Western liberal democracy has risen sharply.
In a survey conducted immediately after the Woolwich murder, 59 percent of respondents regarded a "clash of civilisations" as inevitable, with only a third, in contrast, deeming Islam as compatible with the "British way of life".
So what or who is fuelling this belief? I believe that political rhetoric and the media has a lot to answer for. In a whole host of speeches and acts since July 2005, Islamophobic discourse has become normalised and become more coded and subtle.
Indeed, some believe that an underlying hostility and resentment against Muslim communities was lying dormant, only for Lee Rigby’s murder to spark its re-eruption with a sharp rise in Islamophobic attacks, from online and hate-filled speeches, to arson and the fire-bombing of mosques.
The BBC’s knee-jerk response was to label the Woolwich attackers as of "Muslim appearance", but then why was an arson attack and destruction of the two-storey Al-Rahma Islamic Centre, in Muswell Hill, described as possibly racially-motivated and not a terrorist attack, even with "EDL" (English Defence League) scrawled on the building’s charred remains?
It is also puzzling why the brutal murder, just a couple of months ago, of a 75-year-old pensioner in Birmingham, who was repeatedly stabbed, his head stamped upon as he walked home from prayers at his mosque, passed almost un-noticed in the media. There were no floral tributes laid outside Mohammad Saleem’s front door, nor was there any widespread outpouring of public emotional outrage on display.
In the wake of the Woolwich attack, the home secretary, Theresa May, has outlined tougher pre-emptive censorship of internet sites, a lower threshold for banning extremist groups and renewed pressure on universities and mosques to reject so-called hate preachers.
A range of people and social groups, including politicians, judges, journalists, intellectuals and university authorities feel obliged to be co-opted into the process of detecting, monitoring and reporting "suspect" Muslim individuals and behaviours. Islamophobia is becoming increasingly institutionalised - we find it in official policy documents and in the voices of state institutions and those holding authoritative positions.
Various research, including a 2010 report suggests that politicians - with their sensationalised focus on those fringe Muslim groups that adhere to anti-western ideologies - have pandered to, fuelled and reaffirmed Islamophobic anxieties in their ambition to achieve electoral advantage.
And in the media, the broad tendency has been to magnify the perceived threat posed by Muslims to entire communities. The public has been bombarded with negative, distorted and even fabricated messages regarding Muslims’ supposed inherent difference and incompatibility with "normal" values and "normal" ways of life - reason enough to view being anti-Muslim as acceptable and justified.
Compare Woolwich again with the death nearly 10 years ago of an innocent Iraqi hotel receptionist, Baha Mousa, who was kept hooded in British army custody for 36 hours and subjected to "appalling and cowardly… gratuitous violence". For this, Corporal Donald Payne was charged with a war crime but was sentenced to only a single year in prison. What does such disproportion indicate?
It is important we don’t forget how such actions, along with Islamophobic discourse and rhetoric, can play into the hands of extremist groups and provide the fuel for extremist messages. But eight years after the worst terrorist atrocity on British soil, it seems this lesson still hasn’t been learnt.
Humayun Ansari is a Professor of History of Islam and Culture in the Department of History at Royal Holloway, University of London.
The Sun plumbs new Islamophobic depths
Posted by 5Pillarz
July 2, 2013 at 11:56 am Editor's Desk
Half of Britain’s mosques have been attacked since 9/11
There remains ‘a lack of political will’ to tackle Islamophobia, warns Government adviser
KEVIN RAWLINSON Author Biography , KASHMIRA GANDER Friday 28 June 2013
Around half of mosques and Muslim centres in Britain have been subjected to Islamophobic attacks since 9/11, academics have warned as the far-right English Defence League prepares to march to the south-London scene of Drummer Lee Rigby’s murder.
The figures are highlighted in a report which also found that the number of anti-Islamic attacks increased by as much as tenfold in the days following the Woolwich attack.
Meanwhile, research by The Independent shows Islamophobic attacks spreading across Britain, with mosques being set alight and Muslims targeted at home in the past month.
Despite the warning signs, a senior Government adviser told The Independent that there remains a “lack of political will” to take on the rise of Islamophobic attacks in Britain. The adviser, who did not want to be named, said that attempts to “tackle this issue – even before Woolwich – struggled to attract buy-in,” with the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles, identified as the primary source of frustration.
The Muslim community was warned yesterday of the dangers it faces from hate groups in a sermon delivered at 500 mosques. The piece said that high-profile cases of sexual grooming of children by small groups of Muslim men “hitting the headlines in a short space of time and the fallout from the Woolwich case will create a major challenge for the Muslim community”.
The trial date for the two men accused of murdering Drummer Rigby, Michael Adebolajo, 28, and Michael Adebowale, 22, will begin on 18 November, it was announced yesterday.
Professor Nigel Copsey, of Teesside University, the author of the new report which showed that between 40 and 60 per cent of mosques and other Islamic centres (around 700) had been targeted since 9/11 – said: “There has undoubtedly been a spike in anti-Muslim incidents since the Woolwich murder. An obvious concern now is whether the number of hate crime incidents return to ‘normal’ levels or whether Woolwich has been a game-changer in terms of increasing the underlying incidence of anti-Muslim hate over the longer term.”
His report is based largely on figures from the Islamophobia watchdog Tell Mama. It shows an increase of attacks to nearly nine per day in the immediate aftermath of the Woolwich killing, but settling back to around two per day over in the following weeks. Prof- essor Copsey added: “What is significant about our analysis is the extent to which the far right is implicated in anti-Muslim hate crime.”
Just this week, swastikas and the letters “EDL”, “KKK” and “NF” were sprayed on the walls of a mosque in Redditch. There were also reports of pigs’ heads being left at Muslim families’ homes and other attacks against individuals. There was also a attack on an Islamic centre in north London.
But Dr Matthew Goodwin, associate fellow at Chatham House and an expert on extremist groups, said that “the broader picture is more positive than we think. Young people are more at ease accepting Muslims in society.”
A spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government said: “There is no place for anti-Muslim hatred or any kind of hatred in Britain, and we are committed to tackling this unacceptable scourge.”