A British hate-monitoring group said it received a record number of reports of offline Islamophobic incidents in 2017 ― suggesting that people who harbor anti-Muslim views are feeling emboldened to take their aggression from computer screens to the street.
Tell MAMA, an organization that tracks anti-Muslim attacks in the U.K., documented a 30 percent rise in verified reports of what it called “street level” hate incidents — involving a person or property in real life, not online — in 2017 from the previous year. Most perpetrators were identified as young white men, and victims were commonly Asian women, the report said.
Tell MAMA Director Iman Atta said the uptick in “aggressive street-based incidents” with younger perpetrators is another sign that more needs to be done to foster community cohesion in the U.K.
“More than ever, we need to come together and redouble our efforts against those who seek to divide and play communities off against each other,” Atta said in a statement.
Tell MAMA said it received 1,201 verified reports anti-Muslim or Islamophobic incidents in the U.K. in 2017. Of those, more than two-thirds were street level. The group also documented a smaller rise (16 percent) in online hate incidents on social media platforms, like Facebook or Twitter.
This uptick could partly be due to British Muslim communities’ growing awareness of Tell MAMA’s documentation efforts and greater willingness among victims and witnesses to report incidents.
Nevertheless, the organization said there appear to be more anti-Muslim incidents taking place in the U.K. In particular, Tell MAMA said there has been a “marked shift” toward more serious offline incidents, including physical attacks, threatening behavior, discrimination and other forms of abuse.
The majority of these in-person attacks from 2017 were categorized as abusive behavior (52 percent). The group defines such behavior as verbal or nonverbal abuse, including comments or gestures, that target individuals because of perceived Muslim identity. Eighteen percent were classified as physical attacks, from spitting to violent assault.
The most anti-Muslim incidents occurred in London (34 percent). The two most common kinds of locations for offline anti-Muslim incidents were busy public areas (34 percent) and transport networks (13 percent).
A significant number of the reported hate incidents from 2017 did not include definitive identification of the victim’s or perpetrator’s ethnicity or age. But for cases in which that data was available, Tell MAMA found that most victims were female, Asian and age 26 to 35. Most perpetrators were male, white and age 13 to 18. The organization said the data reaffirmed its belief that offline anti-Muslim hate incidents are fueled by gender-based discrimination and Islamophobia.
Tell MAMA found that reports of anti-Muslim incidents usually spiked after high-profile terrorist attacks in the U.K. For example, in the week after the Manchester Arena attack on May 22, 2017, the group received 72 reports of offline anti-Muslim incidents, compared with nine the previous week.
“These events are not the underlying cause of anti-Muslim incidents, but rather ... act as triggers, where people with latent racial prejudices feel emboldened to act on their views, violently or otherwise,” the report stated.
The alleged victims of anti-Muslim hate incidents told the group that when they reported discriminatory behavior to their employer or police, they were often unsatisfied with the outcome. Victims reported mixed experiences with police and said they received unsupportive comments from officers. Victims also said police departments often failed to follow up with updates about cases.
“[Victims] want to be believed when reporting discrimination to their employers or hate crimes and incidents to the police,” said Atta. “Without that, trust is lost.”