Victims of far-right Islamophobic abuse and attacks cite the English Defence League in a third of cases, according to new research.
Researchers who looked at data collected by anti-Islamophobia monitor Tell Mama said that there was a "troubling picture of low-level anti-Muslim harassment: incidents in the workplace, in the street, between neighbours and particularly online, which may not always hit the headlines but can still have an emotionally distressing, and in some cases devastating, effect on people’s lives and their communities."
The research found that the majority of abuse directed at Muslims offline was not, however, linked to any organised far-right movement.
Members of the extreme far right group the English Defense League
The EDL is the far-right organisation that is most implicated in disseminating anti-Muslim hate online, the report said.
Of 434 incidents of online abuse, 300 were linked to a far-right movement, and 147 of those were linked to the EDL - a third of all online anti-Muslim incidents.
Based on 2012-2013 data collected prior to the murder of Drummer Lee Rigby in Woolwich, which sparked a series of anti-Muslim attacks and demonstrations, the researchers at the University of Teeside found that of the online incidents, where the bulk of attacks occur, it is the EDL, rather than the BNP, that was specifically named in 49% of cases.
"Such is the growth of ‘online hate’ that a 2009 compendium of web-hate sites, games, and chat rooms ran to more than 160 pages," the report said.
"The EDL, in particular, views online activity as central to its organisational identity. Facebook is the favoured mode of communication between EDL supporters.
"Online expressions of anti-Muslim sentiment have reached significant proportions, with 74% of incidents reported to Tell Mama taking place online compared to 26 per cent being committed in the physical world."
For Fiyaz Mughal, the founder of Tell Mama, the stats mean that the Muslim community is becoming more vigilant about reporting online Islamophobia, and he wants government and social media to intervene.
"Where as once people might have just blocked abusers, changed accounts or shut down social media as a reaction to abuse, now they are reporting it," he said.
When online hate is reported, EDL supporters/sympathisers have been identified in 147 of cases, the CXF (Combined Ex-Forces) in five, the JDL (Jewish Defence League) in four, and the BNP just two.
Mughal said: "The BNP are not active online. People switch their online allegiances all the time, from BNP, to EDL, even to Ukip, generally to the movement the media is giving the most attention to."
Offline incidents that were reported were mainly street based (55%) with 18 per cent taking place at mosques and other Islamic institutions and 13% at workplaces and schools.
Of the reported offline offences the majority of victims were female and, of these, over 80% were women who were easily identifiable as Muslim, i.e. wearing the hijab or niqab.
The researchers also found that most Muslims, 63%, who reported to incidents to Tell MAMA did not report abuse or attacks to the police.
"Compared to other minorities vulnerable to hate crime, Muslims are treated differently," the report's authors said. "While LGBT communities, for instance, are portrayed in police discourse as vulnerable to hate crime, and policy is focused on building trust with these communities, Muslims are not generally portrayed in such a straightforward manner.
"Although they are seen as vulnerable to hate crime, the primary focus has been on their vulnerability to extremism or radicalisation. The police, therefore, face a dilemma: should they adopt ‘hard’ or ‘soft’ engagement strategies in dealing with Muslim communities?"
Mughal says he wants to combine the results with the research done by the Community Security Trust, which monitors anti-semitic hatred and attacks, to urge government and social media sites to take action.
"When you speak to Twitter or others, they don't want to know. you have to go to them with this bulk of evidence, and ask government to take it on too. There's an All-Party-Parliamentary-Group on Islamophobia, which is practically defunct. We have to give them real meaty evidence that they can work on."