A record number of anti-Muslim attacks and incidents of abuse were reported last year, with women disproportionately targeted by mostly male teenage perpetrators, the monitoring group Tell Mama has said.
In its annual report, the group noted a surge in Islamophobic attacks, with 1,201 verified reports submitted in 2017, a rise of 26% on the year before and the highest number since it began recording incidents.
Experts put the rise down to the growth of the far right, as well as a large number of “trigger” incidents last year, such as the terrorist attacks in London and Manchester, which prompted a backlash of anti-Muslim hate.
Criticism was also aimed at the police, with a recent report from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services finding large-scale failings in the way hate crimes were dealt with. Tell Mama said victims were often let down by poor recording of incidents and were sometimes left feeling dismissed.
“The world feels a more unstable space and in all of this, the voices of victims and outcomes for them in terms of access to justice have not been great,” said Iman Atta, the director of Tell Mama.
More than two-thirds – 839 – of the attacks and abuse occurred offline, or on street level, a 31% rise from 642 last year. A third of incidents were online, up by 16.3% compared with the previous year.
After a suicide bombing at Manchester Arena killed 23 people, more than 70 reports of Islamophobic prejudice, including hate speech and abusive behaviour, were reported.
“It is shocking to learn of a 26% increase in reporting of Islamophobic hate crimes … While no doubt some of the increase is due to an increase in reporting of incidents, most people especially Muslim women are reluctant to report Islamophobia,” said the equalities campaigner Akeela Ahmed.
She added: “These findings reflect the fact that since 2016, a growing minority of people with far-right sympathies have felt emboldened by Brexitand the 2016 US elections.”
The sociologist Tahir Abbassaid the findingswere a worrying indication of the rise of populism and nationalism, with Muslims often the target. “Islamophobia feeds into the radicalisation of young Muslims … Islamophobia is used as a hook but also far-right groups and radical Islamists feed off each other and they are all feeding off of Islamophobia.”
The Tell Mama report focused on the trend toward physical incidents, saying: “There has been a marked shift towards more serious offline incidents such as physical attacks, threatening behaviour and abuse more generally.”
In 2017, vandalism replaced threatening behaviour as the third most common category of anti-Muslim hate incident; there was a 56% increase in anti-Muslim vandalism when compared with 2016.
Of the victims six out of 10 were women and of the perpetrators eight out of 10 were men, with the majority aged between 13 and 18.
“We are extremely concerned at a younger generation of mainly boys and men who are becoming more aggressive in their targeting of Muslims,” said Atta.
Shelina Janmohamed, the author of Generation M: Young Muslims Changing the World, said: “It has definitely felt like the temperature and volume of explicit hatred against Muslims has escalated … I think 2017 was a particularly difficult year for everyone in the country and Muslim women, as report shows, really bore brunt of that.”
She added: “Lots of Muslims still simply don’t report and the numbers are likely to be bigger than the report suggests.”
The report noted that inactivity from Twitter when it came to removing anti-Muslim hate material was “deeply worrying” and showed a “wanton lack of desire to understand hatred on its platform”.
Janmohamed said she was sent a photo of a woman in a burqa having a gun pointed to her head after sending a tweet about the World Cup. She reported it to Twitter but no action was taken.
The report said Twitter had demonstrated its inability to stop individuals opening up new accounts repeatedly when they have been banned from using the platform. In one case, a victim had to report 11 separate accounts for harassment.
Tell Mama flagged material that was easy to find and clearly should have been removed, including a tweet that said: “Correct me if I am wrong. All Muslim scum must be gassed.”
Another tweet read: “We are at war! The UK armed forces must go to the Islamic areas and go door to door and shoot them all.”
Twitter said it made more than 30 policy, product and operational changes in the context of safety between 2017 and 2018. It said accounts found to be in violation of the rules faced a range of enforcement actions.
The police watchdog has warned of a “real possibility” Britain’s exit from the EU next year could trigger a further surge in hate crime.
Imran Awan, an associate professor of criminology at Birmingham City University, said police were not always sure what to call hate crimes and inconsistency did not help.
He said the best way to tackle hate crime and Islamophobia was through education. “We need to look at the grassroots or the problems, such as the social deprivation in society,” said Awan. “A lot of it can be dealt with through education especially at a younger age. That element seems to be missed.”