Tell MAMA (Measuring Anti-Muslim Attacks), a new helpline for victims of Islamophobic attacks, harassment and assault, recorded 630 incidents in its first 12 months of operation.
The helpline, launched to help understand the scale and severity of anti-Muslim violence in the UK, found that 58% of reported attacks were perpetrated against women. The majority of these attacks affected women who wore traditional Islamic dress – or were ‘visible’ as Muslims.’
According to the Guardian, “The majority of incidents received by the helpline related to what it described as “abusive behaviour” with 74% of recorded incidents occurring online.”
Experts agree, however, that even ‘non-violent’ incidents leave indelible marks on the victims. As Paul Iganski, of Lancaster University, writes in the upcoming edition of ‘Minority Rights Now,’ “…those wounds occur irrespective of the motivating impulses of the offender, and often irrespective of the type of offence: being verbally abused in the street or some other public place can leave as much of an emotional impact as a physical assault.”
Fiyaz Mughal, coordinator of Tell MAMA, told the Guardian that he was “shocked” by the amount of racial hatred they had detected in their first year of monitoring, particularly online.
He said there is a need for police forces to step up the way they dealt with anti-Muslim crime, particularly online, and highlighted the fact that only two police forces, the City of London Police and the Metropolitan Police, record anti-Muslim crime separately from other crimes.
The monitoring of hate crime is something NICEM raised specifically in its recently released report ‘Race and Criminal Justice in Northern Ireland: Towards a Blueprint for the Eradication of Racism from the Northern Ireland Criminal Justice System.’ The availability of data is crucial in terms of developing appropriate policy responses, which is why the collection of ethnic monitoring data by police – as done in England and Wales, but not in Northern Ireland – is key to tackling hate crime.
As the Guardian explains, “During 2011 2,000 hate crimes were recorded against different faiths in England, Wales and Northern Ireland by police with officers at the time admitting that they were unclear how many were against Muslims because separate figures were not recorded.”
The experiences collated by Tell MAMA show how important monitoring as well, particularly when looking at Islamophobic hate crime, said Fiyaz Mughal: “The police frequently fail to take victim statements, fail to appreciate the terrifying effects of these incidents upon women and vulnerable children. Few police forces even bother to record Islamophobia as part of their reporting systems.”
But this highlights as well the need for better understanding of multiple discrimination and multiple identity, and policy responses to back this up.
Why are Muslim women in particular being targeted? Are they more visible, because of their dress? Or is there a gender dimension that is being overlooked?
This intersection has been highlighted by many women with whom NICEM has spoken during our CEDAW workshops. When recounting an experience of racial harassment while walking with her young child in a pram, one woman noted that even now, she wasn’t sure whether she was shouted at because she was black, or because she was a woman – or because she was a black woman.
Now that we know that the majority of reported anti-Muslim attacks are against women, we must ensure that any responses by police or the government are sensitive to the specific needs of minority and Muslim women.
If you’ve been a victim of anti-Muslim prejudice or Islamophobia – whether online, in the street, or in an official setting – you can go to Tell MAMA and report it.