Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Majority of British Muslims have witnessed Islamophobia – study 60% of respondents to survey say they have seen abuse or discrimination directed at fellow Muslims, up from 40% in 2010

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 workplace.

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 coverage.
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 alienation.

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 here.”

The findings match what some senior police chiefs have told the Guardian about their assessment of Muslims communities.

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