Market towns pose a threat to small Muslim communities
Muslims and their mosques face a higher level of threats and intimidation in UK suburbs and market towns than in big cities, according to a new report. Case studies reveal that examples such as a Muslim woman who was punched and called a “terrorist” in front of her petrified daughter are not uncommon.
Such attacks often go unreported, and in this case the woman was too scared to inform the police. She also played down the incident to reduce her child’s distress, and avoided explaining why she was singled out for wearing a burka and being a Muslim woman.
The new study Islamophobia and Anti-Muslim Hate Crime: UK Case Studies reveals this kind of unprovoked incident is a largely hidden experience that is insufficiently acknowledged and understood outside of the communities where they occur. The report published on 27 November is part of a ten year academic research project led by the University of Exeter’s European Muslim Research Centre (EMRC). It captures a snapshot of these experiences which are often unrecognised by the media, politicians and wider British society. The research also combines an academic approach to identifying world events and policy information that inform the way reactions and actions towards Muslims can be influenced.
Findings show that since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, arson, criminal damage, violence and intimidation against mosques has increased dramatically and smaller or isolated Muslim communities in places like Colchester, Bishop Stortford and Boston have become especially vulnerable.
Dr Jonathan Githens Mazer, co-Director of the EMRC said, “Islamophobia and anti-Muslim hate crime are very real problems for British Muslims going about their everyday business. Through our research we have found that in smaller and more isolated mosques in many suburbs and market towns there is a feeling of being under siege. Some local councils who are made aware of the situation say to mosque officials, ‘we can see this is bad, why don’t you move the mosque?'”
The report also analyses the local activity by the British National Party, English Defence League and sister organisations. Anti-migrant and random attacks that have impacted on every poor urban community where most Muslims live have also been studied.
Dr Bob Lambert, co-Director of the EMRC said, “Evidence has also indicated that the galvanising report of the Stephen Lawrence Enquiry changed police response to hate crimes. Whereas, because the war on terror is viewed as a security risk, Muslims do not have the support that is now widely accepted in other areas of hate crime. Muslims are not requesting special treatment, just equal rights with their fellow citizens.”
Professor John Esposito from Georgetown University, USA argues against the anti-Muslim rhetoric and has recently been commenting on the furore surrounding the negative campaigning against Park51, the so-called Ground Zero Mosque in Lower Manhattan. He will be attending the launch of the new report and recognises the need to unite UK and US citizens in a common purpose. He said, “US and UK citizens should distinguish the faith of mainstream Muslims from the claims of a minority of extremists who justify their acts of violence and terrorism in the name of Islam. Blurring this distinction plays into the hands of preachers of hate (Muslim and non-Muslim) whose rhetoric incites and demonizes, alienates and marginalizes and leads to the adoption of domestic policies that undermine the civil liberties of Muslims and non-Muslims alike.”
The report will be presented to community audiences around the UK, commencing with the following engagements:
Saturday, 27 November, 2010 – London Muslim Centre, Whitechapel, London
Sunday, 28 November, 2010 – Birmingham Central Mosque, Birmingham
Friday, 10 December, 2010 – Woodfarm Education Centre, Glasgow
The report analyses threats of violence and intimidation Muslims face in the UK such as:
- Political violence from a small violent extremist nationalist milieu that has broadly the same political analysis as the British National Party (BNP).
- Increased intimidation by anti-Muslim demonstrations in Muslim communities by the EDL and sister organisations.
- Gangs and individuals who have become convinced and angry by negative portrayals of Muslims in the media most especially of Muslims as terrorists and security threats consist of the principle category of assailant.
- Racist, anti-migrant and random attacks have impacted every poor urban community where most Muslims live.
- Arson, criminal damage, violence and intimidation against mosques, Islamic institutions and Muslim organisations has increased dramatically. Many mosques in isolated Muslim communities have become especially vulnerable.
- A disturbing number of hate crimes take place in which Muslim women wearing hijabs, niqabs or burkas have been assaulted, abused and intimidated.