“We Fear for Our Lives”: Offline and Online Experiences of Anti-Muslim Hostility
This report looks at the impact of on-line and off-line experiences of anti-Muslim hostility on British Muslims in the UK. It highlights how some male Muslims are failing to report in Institutional anti-Muslim prejudice for fear of being targeted and for fear that they will be seen to be ‘weak’ in the eyes of their families and lead to instability in their employment. It also highlights how key ‘trigger’ events such as the murder of Lee Rigby, the actions of the so-called Islamic State and the Rotherham grooming scandal, have led to multiple impacts within Muslim communities. It also re-affirms the link between racist language and anti-Muslim prejudice, with one female respondent saying, “actually, 9 out of 10 times, the abuse I receive is based on race. Although they use religion because I am identifiable as a Muslim woman, the words that come out of their mouth have to do with race, so the race and the religion are tied up together in people’s minds.”
Participants in the report talk about the disturbing nature of verbal and physical violence that they have suffered. A convert to Islam, Sophie (who wears the Hijab) stated, “a guy walked past, he spat at me and called me a ‘Muzzi’. Also, I’ve been called dirty Paki, (I am white), as a group of guys walked past and shouted ‘speak English in our country.’ I was looking at a map and did not say anything.”
Some participants also warned about the risks of radicalisation, especially for young people as a result of suffering online and/or offline anti-Muslim hate crimes. One respondent, Hamza, noted that “anti-Muslim hate crime has affected Muslims. This is why Muslims are going to Syria. This is why they support ISIS. When people experience Islamophobic abuse, they will be easily radicalised. They feel weak, lonely, isolated, and rejected from British society. This is when these hate preachers pick them up and brainwash them. If you are constantly victimised, you are weak.”
This report also highlights an impact on Muslim communities which is rarely discussed and which includes changes in dress style so that attention is not drawn to the visibility of their faith. The report highlights the issue of Muslims managing their Muslim identity on-line and off-line with the aim of reducing future abuse. It states that, “the reality of anti-Muslim hate crime creates ‘invisible’ boundaries, across which members of the Muslim community are not ‘welcome’ to step. The enactment of both virtual and physical boundaries impacts upon ‘emotional geographies’ in relation to the way in which Muslims perceive the spaces and places around and outside their communities of abode. Rather than risk the threat of being attacked, either off-line or on-line, many actual and potential victims opt to change their lifestyles and retreat to ‘their own’ communities.