BIRMINGHAM – As Britain stands out as a country of real diversity, tolerance and multicultural vibrancy for many, police figures show that Muslims have been experiencing surging hate crimes over the past months, after EU Brexit referendum.
“Between August and September 2015, I decided to adopt a ‘visibly’ identifiable Muslim identity in public spaces in order to research Islamophobia,” Imran Awan, a senior lecturer and deputy director of the Centre for Applied Criminology at Birmingham City University, wrote on International Business Times on Wednesday, October 12.
“I grew a beard and wore the jubba and Islamic cap as part of my daily routine in Birmingham.”
Awan started the research in 2015 in Birmingham to examine how his perceived identity as Muslims made him vulnerable to Islamophobic victimization.
It started after a man told him his appearance as a non-visible Muslim has saved him from facing rising bigotry.
“I am a Muslim but I am not visibly identifiable as one from my appearance. In 2015, while interviewing some participants as part of another research project, one of the male participants challenged my status as a non-visible Muslim,” Awan said.
“He told me: “Look Imran, you don’t dress as a Muslim, you simply don’t know how it feels like.””
After his decision to grow beard and wear Islamic traditional outfit, he started to face startling Islamophobia.
“My experiences of harassment and intimidation as a result of altering my appearance included name-calling, swearing and threats of physical violence. I was persistently either stared at or pointedly ignored in public, sneered and sworn at, and called a “f**** terrorist”,” he said.
“In light of my Asian background, I also suffered verbal abuse such as “P**** terrorist”, indicating both Islamophobic and racist attitudes. I felt embarrassed, humiliated and in some cases started questioning whether I really was accepted in this country as a British Muslim.
“On one occasion I parked my car and went to a nearby shop to get a cold drink as it was a very hot day. As I was walking towards the shop, I heard a loud noise from a car and two men shouting: “You terrorist scum”.
“Another time, I was walking down a busy street and two teenage girls walked past me and shouted: “Get them out of our country.””
Muslim Women Too
Irene Zempi, the director of the Nottingham Centre for Bias, Prejudice & Hate Crime at Nottingham Trent University, had her own social experiment to test attacks on visibly Muslim women.
“In 2014, I wore the full veil – including jilbab (long dress), hijab (headscarf) and niqab (face veil) – in public places in Leicester,” she wrote.
“I am not a Muslim, I am an Orthodox Christian. For my PhD research, I examined the experiences of veiled Muslim women who had been victims of Islamophobia in public spaces. I did 60 individual and 20 group interviews with veiled Muslim women.”
The idea to don Islamic full-face was suggested during her PhD interview when some people suggested that she wear the veil herself to see the level of abuse and hostility they suffer on a daily basis.
“My experiences included name-calling, swearing, threats of physical violence and derogatory forms of humor,” she wrote.
“Underlying all these forms of verbal abuse was a clear sense of anti-Muslim hatred and hostility, made apparent through the language used by the perpetrators.
“Typical examples of name-calling included “Muslim terrorist”, “suicide bomber” and “you lot are terrorists”, indicating that the perpetrators perceived veiled Muslim women as a security or terrorist threat,” she added.
After the bitter experiences, both researchers submitted some recommendations to help victims of hate attacks.
“We have made a number of new recommendations in a short briefing about our research, starting with the need for the public to intervene and assist victims of anti-Muslim hate crime,” the wrote.
“During our experiences we both saw bystanders who saw us being harassed but did not intervene. Victims of such hate crimes do not necessarily want physical action – just a phone call to inform the police what they have witnessed.”
“Much more work should be done to better understand the causes and drivers of anti-Muslim hatred,” they added.