London, England – Anti-Muslim attacks in the UK rose 47 percent in 2016 compared with the previous year, according to a new report released by Tell MAMA, a hate crime monitor.
The attacks were largely levelled at Muslim women – 56 percent of victims of 642 incidents were female. Sixty-six percent of perpetrators were male, and 69 percent were white men. Victims came from a variety of ethnic backgrounds.
Although not all Muslim women wear clothing that identifies them as followers of the Islamic faith, those who don the headscarf, face veil, robe and other garments are disproportionately targeted of gendered Islamophobia, said the report, which was released on Thursday.
Coming from an ethnic minority background, being female and Muslim has created a brand of Islamophobia with an “intersectional nature”, crossing boundaries of gender, race and religion, Tell MAMA said.
In the week following the EU referendum vote, the charity reported a 475 percent spike in anti-Muslim attacks, a jump also witnessed after the Tower Bridge attacks.
“One major driver of Islamophobia is the way certain sections of the media have reported on Muslims,” Miqdaad Versi, assistant general of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), told Al Jazeera.
“When commentators use terms like ‘The Muslim Problem’, it reinforces this narrative and all the differences that have been identified which perpetuate stereotypes and reify the good/bad Muslim dichotomy. That way it’s much easier to believe it is acceptable to treat them differently.”
Events that lead to Muslims being portrayed as “the problem”, include attacks and an ongoing discussion on halal meat being branded as animal cruelty.
“[This] has created this idea that Muslims are the ‘other’. The government needs to take serious action to tackle hate crime against all communities in an equal and proportionate manner, which as it stands right now, is not the case,” Versi said.
Al Jazeera spoke to victims about their experiences:
“Growing up, I never felt Islamophobia was the norm. You heard about something happening to someone after an attack, and that was it. But my experiences of late have forced me to change my opinion, because the truth is, anti-Muslim attacks have now become normal.
I remember going to an event in broad daylight during the summer. I was approaching the venue and this guy, who I remember looked quite mature and was very drunk, came towards me. There was a bus stop in front of me with people gearing to go home. He approached me and said: ‘I hate the fact that you Muslims are in this country.’
At first, I was really shocked, because he approached me in a really aggressive way, so I crossed the road for my own safety. I said to him: ‘Get out of my way.’ I wasn’t having any of it.
I shouted back: 'I was born in this country, so how about that?' Then he started to make monkey noises
All the while, the people at the bus stop were just standing there watching to see what was going on. Then the man started shouting obscene language and abuse, telling me to ‘go back to my own country’.
I shouted back: ‘I was born in this country, so how about that?’ Then he started to make monkey noises. I eventually went inside the venue, I tried to act like I was OK, I was cool. He was just a drunk guy, he didn’t do me any harm. But a few minutes later, I was really shaking inside.
I think I underestimated how frightening it was to be approached like that, to the point that someone approached me and asked if I was OK. I said I was fine, but inside, I wasn’t.”
“A couple of days after Trump was elected, I was walking in the city centre of Bradford with a group of friends. We were behind two men, one of whom was clearly drunk.
He turned around and started shouting things like: ‘Go home Pakis!’ He kept turning around spouting racist abuse, but we ignored him.
When he realised we were ignoring him, he said: ‘Do you want me to pull out my Stanley knife?’
He said: 'Do you want me to pull out my Stanley knife?' He put his hand in his pocket as though he was going to get something, and started to approach us
He put his hand in his pocket as though he was going to get something, and started to approach us but his friend grabbed him and dragged him away from us.
At that moment, we had no idea if he had a knife or not, so we turned a corner and went into a local cafe to regroup.
When you’re in Bradford as a minority and a Muslim, you expect it to be safe because you’re surrounded by people that look like you. We were a big group, too, so we thought that would protect us even though most of us were visibly Muslim, but it didn’t.”
“A few weeks after the EU referendum, I was walking my son to school along a route I always take. A gentleman I walked past said something to me. I thought he was asking for a lighter for his cigarette, so I told him I don’t smoke.
He looked at me really funny and said: ‘What are you doing here? Shouldn’t you go back home?’ So I replied: ‘I’m British. I was born here, this is my home!’ I gave him a history lesson and told him my grandfather fought for this country. Then he said: ‘Well if this is your home, we voted you out. So why are you still here?’
He said: 'Well if this is your home, we voted you out. So why are you still here?' In the space of two seconds, it went from that to him trying to punch my son
In the space of two seconds, it went from that to him trying to punch my son who he thought was an easy target. I was a normal person who had walked down this road a hundred times, but in the space of a few weeks, this man now felt like he had the right to point out that I no longer belonged in this country.
I don’t wear a hijab [headscarf], but the fact is he associated my being brown, being Asian, with being Muslim.
In the same week, someone plastered a sticker exclusively on my front door, not on any other doors in the neighbourhood, saying: ‘Join us. Follow the Pegida movement.’ Instead of ‘Refugee Muslims, it said ‘Rapefugee Muslims’. For the first time in my life, I was made to feel that I wasn’t British; I was Muslim.”
“Soon after the Paris attacks and the Bataclan shooting, I was sat on the District Line tube on the way to work.
There was this old lady who must have been in her 70s or 80s who was standing, so I decided to offer her my seat.
As I got up and gestured to her, asking her if she wanted to sit down, she screamed and said she didn't want to take a seat from a 'terrorist like me'
As I got up and gestured to her, asking her if she wanted to sit down, she screamed and said she didn’t want to take a seat from a ‘terrorist like me’. The people around her were taken aback.
One woman stood up and said: ‘No, that’s out of order. You shouldn’t say things like that about this nice young man who is offering you a seat.’
I felt shocked and embarrassed because I’d never experienced anything like that before, so I decided to get off at the next station.”