SHAFAQNA – 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 condoned Islamophobic acts. Nearly nine 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 minimized 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 Islamist ideology is high.
The IHRC was criticised by the Henry Jackson Society (HJS) thinktank. “The group argues that government policy is designed to criminalise Islam and Muslims, when in fact the recent counter-extremism strategy rightly promises to address the growing levels of anti-Muslim hate crime in the UK,” a spokesperson said. “The IHRC’s claims fuel additional and unnecessary fear within Muslim communities, which we believe is far more divisive than any efforts to identify and challenge extremism and radicalisation.”
The commission responded to the comments by saying the HJS follows a neoconservative agenda. The HJS denies this and says it has all-party support for its work promoting liberal democracy.
Others welcomed the report. Rowan Williams, the 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.