Muslim women are more likely to be subjected to Islamophobic attacks than men, especially if they are wearing the niqab or other clothing associated with their religion, a study has found.
Maybe We Are Hated, a report on the impact of Islamophobic attacks, written by Dr Chris Allen, a social policy lecturer at the University of Birmingham, will be launched in the House of Commons on Wednesday. It is intended to look beyond the statistics and, for the first time, give a voice to the female victims of Islamophobia.
One of the women featuring in the report, Rachel, 28, was run over by a man after she asked him to move his car, which was blocking the drive of her house. Before attacking her, he said: “I’m gonna pop you, Muslim.”
In another case, four decomposing pigs’ heads were placed outside a woman’s house. Shareefa, 33, told how she was repeatedly abused by a group of young people calling her names such as “ninja” and had fireworks posted through the letterbox of her home.
“I was scared to go out on the street or into the area on my own,” she told Allen. “It made me think continuously that I need some sort of self-defence class so I know now to defend myself and protect my children. You start linking everything as being anti-Muslim, and that may well not be the case. For example, some people give you a look, which may be nothing.”
Allen interviewed 20 women aged between 15 and 52 about their experiences. One was called “Mrs Osama bin Laden” and told to “go back to Afghanistan” while at the gym. Another, on her way home after dropping her children at school, was followed by a woman with a pushchair, who spat in her face and asked her: “Why do you look so ugly? Why are you covering your face?”
Fiyaz Mughal, from Faith Matters, which commissioned the report, said: “This is the first time Muslim women’s voices have been given life in terms of anti-Muslim prejudice. We keep hearing people saying: ‘What are the numbers?’ We can understand that, but it’s important to recognise the actual impact on people.”
Tell Mama, a hotline for recording Islamophobic crimes and incidents, found that, excluding online abuse and threats, 58% of all verified incidents between April 2012 and April 2013 were against women and that in 80% of those cases the woman was wearing a hijab, niqab or other clothing associated with Islam.
According to Allen, some of the women said their experiences had made them question their Britishness, with one saying her husband wanted them to leave the country. He said a refusal to take Islamophobia seriously risked giving credence to the “clash of civilisations” narrative promoted by Islamists and the far right.
“It feeds into the rhetoric of the Islamists saying: ‘No matter how hard you try, you will never belong here, they hate you,” he said. “When it comes to Muslims, they won’t tackle these issues. It adds fuel to the fire.”
The names of the victims have been changed.