Check the front page of any newspaper. Scroll through your newsfeed. Look at the headlines on your ride home on the Tube.
Radical. Extremist. Violent. Irrational. Unreasonable. Oversensitive.
Here we are in the same debate about how Muslims are 'immature' and 'irrational', that Islam is not compatible with liberal democracy or freedom of speech. Don't we ever get tired of repeating the same stereotypes every few years (remember 1989 or 2005 or 2010)?
In the current storm of headlines, a few authors have urged us to focus on the radical and violent protesters, not the majority of Muslims. While this distinction is important, I'd like to focus for a moment on the radical, violent behaviour that is sparked and encouraged by this media coverage. This habitual scapegoating of Muslims (and in the UK this extends to migrants and refugees) has created an atmosphere ripe for hate crimes and violence.
In 2009, an Institute for Race Relations found that: "While Muslims represent 3 per cent of the population in the UK, they represent a massive 44 per cent, almost half, of those who have died[from hate crimes]." More recently, a report from the University of Exeter suggests that: "Islamophobic, negative and unwarranted portrayals of Muslims in London... provide motivation for a significant number of anti-Muslim hate crimes." Analysis of the British media over the last decade has shown it as overwhelmingly negative and hostile; in contrast a recent study found that more Muslims in the UK feel proud to be British than non-Muslims.
From this perspective, the radical and the violent are not Muslims but the perpetrators of these hate crimes.
Here are the most recent statistics on hate crimes in the UK:
35,816 (82%) were race hate crimes 1,621 (4%) were religion hate crimes 4,252 (10%) were sexual orientation hate crimes 1,744 (4%) were disability hate crimes 315 (1%) were transgender hate crimes Now here's the human side:
-Asylum-seekers' home in Yorkshire was attacked with missiles smashing windows -Three men shouted racist abuse and threw fireworks into a home in Plymouth with a family inside -Man jailed after a pig's head was left at Cheltenham Mosque -Gatwick mosque was desecrated as 400 people held Ramadan prayers inside -A man was punched in the face on a train after he tried to intervene when a man shouted racist abuse at passengers.
These crimes are disgusting and shocking. And they are only some of the hate crimes that occurred in July and August this year. We need front page articles about this type of radical, violent rage that has been attacking families and individuals in our communities.
Yes, the violent protests in the Middle East are upsetting but so are these equally violent hate crimes in the streets of London and Manchester. Radicalism and violence are not reserved for Muslims; here we see white men (79% of perpetrators of hate crimes were white men) being just as radical and violent.
What the media is doing right now- writing reams and reams on 'Muslim Rage'- is making our communities in London more vulnerable and enraging future criminals.
When my friend's mom hears about an attack on TV and thinks, "Please don't let them be Muslim," she's worried because the backlash will be at her and her son. That backlash is fed by sensationalist journalism.
Our minority communities in London bear the brunt of this rage in broken windows, racist graffiti, and physical violence. Maybe the journalists don't know that their articles paint targets on their neighbours' foreheads. But the effect is a radical and violent rage that is silently devastating our communities.
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