This past week, the UK has been observing National Hate Crime Awareness Week; an initiative that seeks to shed light on the ever-rising traumatic incidences of hate crime in the UK and challenge the hateful rhetoric that is becoming all too normative in this volatile climate we are attempting to navigate. Hate manifests in diverse shapes and forms, and materializes in a similar scattered manner.
The last four months alone have seen a steady spike in racially or religiously fuelled hate crimes. The Home Office has reported a 29% increase in hate crimes following the terror attacks earlier this year. It is widely thought that this figure is an under representation. Nonetheless, this stark increase in hate crimes necessitates attempts at finding inclusive and coherent solutions from both a policy and grassroots level.
Islamophobia is on the rise in the UK, with an increase in terror attacks and migrant flows fuelling flames of intolerance, misunderstanding and hate. When thinking of Islamophobic attacks, be it verbal, emotional or physical harm on undeserving individuals, we usually envision a woman in hijab suffering abuse on a bus or on the high street. Rarely do we include Muslim men in this rhetoric, and we seldom speak of the non-Muslim individuals that experience such hate purely based on their outward appearance.
The increasing occurrence of non-Muslim men subjected to Islamophobic attacks deserves real attention. Attacks on men in general harbour lesser known impact than attacks on their female counterpart. Furthermore, the scale of reporting these attacks remains low, obscuring the statistical figures released. When perceiving statistics, the value of humanity and each individual’s life is somewhat overlooked, rendering the victims of such atrocities as simply numbers in the greater scheme of tackling hate crimes.
Dr. Imran Awan, along with a colleague at New Statesman have actively challenged the concept of statistics that fail to include a real voice for the non-Muslim victims of Islamophobic hate crime through conducting qualitative research, presented at parliament on Wednesday 18th October. This report comes shortly after the release of the government’s Racial Disparity Audit and launch of the Ethnicity, Facts and Figures website. Considering the government’s explicit focus on ethnicity and race, it will be interesting to ascertain parliament’s response to claims of the convergence racial and religiously motivated hate.
The research conducted by Dr. Awan highlights the ambiguity and blurred borders of racism and Islamophobia, delving into the convergence of race and religiously fuelled Islamophobic hate crime. An interesting notion underlined in this research are the distinct overt characteristics that pool individuals into being perceived as the other. This notion of othering envelops dangers of stereotyping, profiling and alienating those that are subject to such ignorance.
This ignorance not only fuels the flames that ignite the materialisation of Islamophobia, but disseminates ignorant propaganda to the vulnerable, possibly widening the scope of Islamophobic attacks.
Although we have witnessed an alarming increase in hate crimes, the emergence of official figures released by the home office reveal a 16% decrease in the conviction of perpetrators of hate crime. This alarming figure highlights the ever-growing need to protect ourselves and disseminate a message that counters the hateful rhetoric, which in turn, leads to actual attacks.
The end of Hate Crime Awareness week is approaching, yet this does not instigate the end of our struggle, as Muslims and non-Muslims alike, against Islamophobia. Now more than ever, we must counter hate with love, ignorance with knowledge and bigotry with humanity.
By Munibah Qureshi
Policy and Social Impact Editor