By Vikram Dodd
Published at the Guardian
Wednesday 11th November 2015
All Right Reserved, Copyright
The majority of British Muslims say they have witnessed
discrimination against followers of the Islamic faith and that a climate
of hate is being driven by politicians and media, a study has found.
Six out of 10 Muslims in Britain surveyed by the Islamic Human Rights
Commission (IHRC) said they had seen Islamophobia directed at someone
else, up from four in 10 when the survey was first conducted in 2010.
Then, half of Muslims said they had not witnessed Islamophobia – a
figure that has now crashed to 18%.
Furthermore, feelings of being increasingly demonised and
discriminated against are rising, according to the report, which says
Muslims suffer physical and verbal abuse, as well as discrimination in
The study is based on interviews with 1,780 people and repeats questions asked in 2010.
In the latest study, nearly every headline finding is worse. The
results paint a picture of alienation among a community seen by
Whitehall, police and security officials as crucial to helping provide
intelligence to thwart terrorism.
More than two-thirds of Muslims told the survey they had heard
anti-Islamic comments by politicians, and half thought politicians
condone Islamophobic acts. Nearly nine out out of 10 thought
discrimination was driven by the way Muslims are portrayed in media
The findings come amid controversy about a planned crackdown on what
the government says are extreme views, which are currently lawful, which
some British Muslims and even police chiefs warn will create further
Subtle effects of discrimination are also on the rise, the study
claims. It found 63% said they had experienced “being talked down to or
treated as if you were stupid; having your opinions minimised or
devalued,” up from 38% in 2010.
More than half said they had been “overlooked, ignored or denied
service in a shop, restaurant or public office or transport”, while
three-quarters said they had been stared at by strangers.
The IHRC report links rising prejudice to politicians and the media
and says: “Just over half believe that politicians condone
discriminatory acts against Muslims. This perception indicates that the
level of political discourse is seen to be poisonous and one of
attribution of blame to Muslims.”
Since 2001 the government has been trying to counter a rising
terrorist threat, and it says the threat of attack by those driven by an
extremist Islamism ideology is high.
The report says: “The hate environment created by negative political
and media discourse, mutually constituted with laws that discriminate …
work together to create a hate environment within which the negative
experiences of hated societies are produced and as this research shows,
in the UK context, have worsened over the five-year period.”
The IHRC has critics, among them the Henry Jackson Society, which the
commission says is a front for neo-Conservative propaganda. The Henry
Jackson Society said: “The IHRC’s claims that the government’s
counter-radicalisation strategy is designed to criminalise Islam
and Muslims fuels fear within Muslim communities. We believe this to be
far more divisive than any efforts to identify individuals who may be
vulnerable to radicalisation.”
Others welcomed the report. Rowan Williams, he former archbishop of
Canterbury, said: “This will make very uncomfortable reading; not all
will agree with every aspect of the analysis, but it is painfully clear
that physical and verbal violence against Muslims has risen
spectacularly in recent years. What is described here is a serious
reproach to our society’s most humane ideals and values.”
Prof Ian Law, of the University of Leeds, said the study shed light
on the rise of anti-Muslim prejudice: “This report identifies a shocking
deterioration in the quality of everyday life since the last report in
2011. Increasing hostility in political and media discourse, increasing
hostility on the streets in terms of physical attacks and abuse and
increasing hostility in the labour market and in educational contexts
are some of the key markers of increasing anti-Muslim hate identified
The findings match what some senior police chiefs have told the Guardian about their assessment of Muslims communities.