CAIRO – As Islamophobia attacks soar in UK, Muslim women have mostly become the prime victims of hate crimes targeting them due to their veil and Islamic dress, a recent report has warned.
“It is something I have got used to since 9/11. From being called Osama Bin Laden to Paki-terrorist I have heard it all,” Zab Mustefa, a British Muslim journalist, who specializes in women's rights and culture, told The Telegraph.
Mustefa is one of hundreds of Muslim women who have been facing awful abuse everyday in Britain for their Islamic affiliation.
Since the 9/11 attacks, UK Muslims have complained of discrimination and stereotypes in the society because of their Islamic attires or identities.
A recent research showed that between 40 and 60% of mosques and other Islamic centers (around 700) had been targeted since 9/11.
Last year, a Muslim helpline, Tell MAMA, has found that women are taking the full brunt of anti-Muslim discrimination and racial hatred in Britain. It said that 58% of victims in 630 racial incidents recorded in the past year were women.
The report revealed that the majority of physical assaults on the streets targeted women wearing Islamic clothing.
Far-right groups like the EDL and the British National Party (BNP) have also played the card of immigration to stoke sentiment against Muslims.
“Racist rhetoric from the likes of the EDL and Ukip is definitely making things worse,” Mustefa stated.
“I am definitely feeling more hatred towards Muslims as a result. I went to the police but they failed to investigate, let alone take any action.
“This was the point that an EDL supporter was threatening to come and ‘teach’ me a lesson simply because I am a Muslim woman. I have been called many things such as hummus eating, camel shagging, Paki Muslim slut. No joke.”
Coming under repeated attacks in London, some of the terrified Muslim women abandoned their hijab.
“I feel unsafe, my husband told me not to go into London, both of us were worried that I may be attacked or have my hijab pulled etc,” one lady that preferred to remain anonymous complained.
“He was also really angry with me when I didn't tell the police, as he said they ought to know that Muslim women are being harassed.
“I was just shocked because it wasn't the expected type that you see on EDL marches. It was ‘educated’ people.”
Along with verbal abuse, UK Muslims believe that racists have turned to social media to attack Muslims, using it as a safe haven that veils their identities.
“I should stress that it's not even solely white British people who make these comments - it's also fellow ethnic minorities, though from my experience the really angry rhetoric has come from white British people,” said Annabel, a UK Muslim woman.
“Islamophobia is rampant - I must deal with multiple comments every week. It now exists as a social norm that provides a clear context for verbal or physical attacks on Muslims because racists create safe spaces for themselves to validate their own racism - which I see on a near daily basis.”
Annabel added, “A guy I know wrote as his Facebook status that he changed Tube carriage when a bearded man was reading a book written in Arabic script and speaking under his voice”.
A report by Tell Mama in 2013 found that, excluding online abuse and threats, 58% of all verified incidents between April 2012 and April 2013 were against women and that in 80% of those cases the woman was wearing a hijab, niqab or other clothing associated with Islam.
Amid increasing complaints from racial attacks, some Muslim women say that Britons use the Islamphobia as way of “constructive criticism”.
“It seems to me this flavor of violence is almost accepted as a 'cruel to be kind' compliment to integration to the British way of life, like bullying fat people to help them get healthier,” suggested Henna, a British Muslim woman.
Yet, Henna has her own sad story of racial abuse.
“In my experience it has been constant since 9/11 - at school I had my white friends rounding on me asking me why, by being a Muslim I supported OBL [Osama bin Laden],” Henna remembered.
“In Trafalgar Square, I had a guy walk in front of me to obstruct my path and then follow me down the street asking why ‘my people’ wanted to destroy the West and telling me I needed to go home. No one in the crowded square felt compelled to intervene.
“It’s the constant and wearing rhetoric that is most difficult. Always having to be on the backfoot - apologetic - because otherwise you're on Team Evil.
“And that's now prevalent in even progressive circles, certainly with people I know as friends.”
Britain is home to a sizable Muslim minority of nearly 2 million.
Hundreds of anti-Muslim hate offences have been carried out across UK in 2013, with Britain's Metropolitan police recording an increase of 49% than 2012.
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