The Tell Mama project was launched in March 2012 with the key remit of supporting victims of anti-Muslims prejudice and in mapping, measuring and analysing data on anti-Muslim prejudice across the country. We had heard from Muslim communities particularly from Muslim women in various parts of the country, about the street based incidences that they had suffered, particularly after 9/11 and 7/7.
This was one reason why the project was launched and another reason was to provide victims with the possibility of getting access to justice and some relief from hate incidents and crimes that they had suffered, working in conjunction with the Police.
After nine months and endless hours of casework and investigation work on perpetrators, we have been taken aback on the level and complexity of anti-Muslim prejudice, particularly on-line and the sheer determination of those who wake up and start promoting anti-Muslim prejudice on-line for tens of hours each day. Our work has also shown up the following; that many taxi drivers who are assumed to be Muslim suffer regular anti-Muslim prejudice and many simply accept it as part of the job.
Furthermore, late night workers in the food catering industry are also liable to such hate incidents and more worryingly, cases that we have received seem to indicate that at a street level, visible Muslim females who wear the Hijab (headscarf) are more likely to suffer from generalised abuse. Those who wear the Hijab and the Niqab, (face veil) are more likely to suffer sustained and more aggressive attacks.
Even though the project is in its early days, anti-Muslim prejudice is unfortunately alive and given life on a daily basis by committed haters who see Muslims as an over-riding threat. For them, the clash of civilisations is a mental reality that plays itself out every day. When Baroness Warsi claimed that Islamophobia has passed the dinner table test in early 2011, she came under a barrage of refutations both politically and in the press.
Some considered 'Islamophobia' or anti-Muslim prejudice the melancholia of Muslims, as if it was all in their heads. Well, from what we have received over the last 9 months, she had touched upon something that has blighted the lives of mainly Muslim women. She was right in her assessment and the next 12 months will provide further quantitative and qualitative data through the Tell Mama project.
This Coalition Government has made a bold step in trying to counter hate crimes through better community based information. It has supported the Tell Mama project and realises the far reaching consequences of anti-Muslim prejudice, one of which is to fuel and cycle feelings of alienation and disaffection that may heighten levels of extremism.
The next 12 - 24 months of activity in the project will not only assist hundreds if not thousands of victims, it will also provide rich analytical data which may provide a real academic insight into the extent of the problem. Only then can the cancer of anti-Muslim prejudice be tackled and its oxygen supply disconnected. It is high time that this surgical intervention takes place.