Muslim women in United Kingdom most at risk of Islamophobia

Press Trust of India | Updated: March 11, 2013 19:30 IST
London: Britain's first official helpline for victims of anti-Islamic hate crimes has found that Muslim women are most at risk of attacks from extremist groups in the country.

The attacks collated by the helpline Tell MAMA (Measuring Anti-Muslim Attacks) show that Muslim women were targeted in a majority of over 600 cases.

High-profile female targets have included Jemima Khan, journalist and ex-wife of Imran Khan, Pakistani cricketer-turned-politician, who along with her 14-year-old son was racially abused with anti-Muslim comments on Twitter in July last year.

The government's communities minister, Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, was also threatened online by a member of the right-wing group English Defence League (EDL).

"We are calling on police and politicians to do more to tackle this shameful wave of fear and prejudice. From the internet, to the workplace, the street and even houses of worship, too often Muslim women and men are becoming the target of vile, sometimes violent, abuse," said Fiyaz Mughal, the director of non-profit group Faith Matters.

Mughal's group had set up the helpline with government funding last March to highlight the scale of anti-Muslim hate crimes.

The helpline has chronicled over 632 cases in its first 12 months and led to the arrests of 21 EDL supporters.

Approximately 58 per cent of the cases involve female victims, with far-right British National Party (BNP) or EDL members linked to 54 per cent of all incidents.

This week, Tell MAMA is launching a free smartphone app to support access to the service.

Mughal is now calling for additional funding to keep the helpline going and for police forces to drastically improve their recording of Islamophobic crimes.

"Few police forces even bother to record Islamophobia as part of their reporting systems. More training is needed at a time when police are facing budget cuts," Mughal said.

"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," she added.

More than 630 incidents logged by the helpline found that the majority of physical assaults committed on the streets were on women wearing Islamic clothing such as the 'hijab' or 'niqab' and ranged from a five-year-old child being hit by a car to an 89-year-old pensioner being attacked.

Many of the incidents being perpetrated are carried out by white men in their 20s and 30s.

Hostility against British Muslims, estimated at nearly 2.5 million as a group, has been on the rise since the July 7, 2005 attacks across London's transport network by a number of British-born Pakistani-origin terror suspects.

Recent opinion polls have revealed that Britain is among the most suspicious nations in terms of Muslims.



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