Marwa Ammar is a construction student at the University of Salford. She tells me she’d been a victim of five Islamophobic attacks within the space of three months. She informs me that these attacks took place while she wore the head-covering, formally known to Muslims as “the Hijab”. The most recent attack involved her being pushed into a bus by a commuter. “I took off my hijab after this”.
A total number of 328 Islamophobic hate crimes were recorded between November 2014 and October 2015 by the Greater Manchester Police Department. The number of attacks throughout the UK rose by 45% in the wake of soldier Lee Rigby’s murder in Woolwich. However, these figures don’t show the true scale of how many Muslims fall victim to hate crime occurring across the UK.
Muslims who suffer from verbal or sometimes physical abuse feel they have no support if wanting to approach the police. Since Islamophobia became its own punishable category of hate crime in October this year, the amount of people coming forward to record attacks has increased. Although some, similar to Marwa, make a decision not to approach the police in fear that their claim won’t be logged as a serious offence.
In an article published by Society Matters, the report stated that “the most common reasons victims give for not reporting hate crime to the police was because they felt the police could not or would not do much about it”. Dick Skellington from Society Matters writes “there is a significant difference between police-recorded hate crime and the Crime Survey because hate crime is still massively under-reported. Under-reporting is still one of biggest challenges that the police and the criminal justice system face in reducing the harm caused by these type of crimes. We are committed to increasing the reporting and recording of hate crime”.
People who feel the police will not record crimes committed against them as serious offences choose not to report it. This creates a problem with attacks bring under-reported by the police and, in turn, create inaccurate statistical figures.
This is why a small number of Muslims-lead organisations have recently banded together to make sure victims of hate crime always approach the police.
Establishments like MEND and Tell MAMA are now campaigning to make sure people speak up about any hate crime they have faced. MEND are currently working with the Myriad Foundation, a Manchester based organisation that set up an event in Manchester to raise awareness about unreported hate crime. The launch of their campaign “Hate is Hate” was held within Islamophobia awareness month in November this year. There hashtag “IAM2015” was widely used on social media while the event took place.
Ghulam, who was one of the main organisers of the event commented on why he thought it was crucial to hold this event in Manchester.
“We decided to start this campaign due to the recent wave of an increase in xenophobia. It seems that certain types of hate against ethnic, racial and religious minorities are becoming acceptable and we wanted to highlight that this shouldn’t be the case. All types of hate crimes against any ethnic, racial or religious minority are abominal. It doesn’t matter what type it is, hate is hate”.
Ghulam also feels that official statistics are not a true reflection of the reality of hate crime. “It is because of false statistics that the government will never understand the true gravity of Islamophobia which could lead to a relaxed attitude towards dealing with it”.
“It’s heartening to know that the lobbying of organisations like MEND has finally resulted in an announcement that all police forces around the UK will now be legally bound to record Islamophobic incidences and attacks as a separate category of hate crime. Now we need victims to use this opportunity and report it. Just look at the recent incident in London where due to the mobile phone footage of Kashif Samuels abusing an elderly Muslim man, the police were able to arrest him and it lead to a 16 week custodial sentence. We need more arrests but it can only happen if we start reporting. I urge all victims to call 101 and report Islamophobic incidences and attacks”.
The event concluded with the Myriad Foundation putting together a spoken word poetry, which they released on their own website.