So what do Muslim women, white men between 20 and 50, EDL sympathisers, and the desire to wear a head covering and face veil have in common?
Sounds a bizarre set of circumstances but there is a strand that links them together.
Anti-Muslim prejudice has been something that Muslim communities have talked about even before 9/11 and 7/7. Yet tangible data and support for victims has been lacking. Apart from a handful of organisations that have undertaken work at a policy level (and very occasionally at the grassroots) there has been little produced in this area. When some Muslims talked about Islamophobia or anti-Muslim prejudice, the response was that they "had a chip on their shoulder", were promoting a "liberal conspiracy" or worse still, "were trying to gain sympathy to Islamicise Europe," the latter not being far off the bizarre fantasies of many an EDL supporter.
Since February 2012, the TELL MAMA project has supported victims of anti-Muslim prejudice in England and mapped, measured and analysed hotspots where such incidents have been taking place. After just four months the results are shocking and sadly confirm what many people (or many Muslims at least) thought.
The main victims are Muslim women and of those, the most likely to be subjected to anti-Muslim incidents and attacks are those wearing the hijab - the religiously based head covering (even more so if they also wear the niqab, the full face veil).The main perpetrators of the attacks have been white males between the ages of 20-50 - who it seems had no problem in verbally abusing Muslim women going about their daily business and even on two occasions urinating on a Muslim female in broad daylight on the street and rubbing faeces into her hijab in a separate incident.
One of the most startling findings is that one in three of the reported cases involved a perpetrator with a link to the far-right English Defence League (EDL) or the British National Party (BNP). This involved the perpetrator having made supportive statements on EDL Facebook pages, through Twitter or through support for the EDL/BNP in what they wore or shouted during an attack. Add to that one case of an EDL sympathiser willing to shoot Baroness Warsi between the eyes, and the catalogue of far-right and EDL agitation is not only worrying, it is depressingly sad.
What is also worrying is the lack of action from Twitter and Facebook in ensuring that such poison and hate is not promoted. Take the case of a female EDL sympathiser who openly threatened to 'Clean up Britain' (great), by 'Bombing a Mosque' (deeply depressing). She obviously sniggered and two others EDL sympathisers gave her the thumbs up. Unfortunately for them, we have their Facebook page on a screenshot.
We should not fool ourselves, as people who believe in liberty, that peddlars of hate (of any background) will stop their activities. They will not: they will simply use other means to get their messages across. Until then, those who have suffered any form of hate crime should report it in to the police or to third-party reporting agencies. If you have suffered anti-Muslim prejudice, the please 'TELL MAMA'.