Hate Crime Against Muslim Women
Before I dive into the subject that I am going to discuss, I would just like to clarify that as a male, my words on this subject cannot do it justice. However, a family member of mine shared their experiences with me, and so I will discuss this from their perspective as well as possible.
Hate crime against Muslim women has risen incredibly since 9/11. This has led to many Muslim women in the UK becoming fearful of their safety. There are several factors that have accumulated over time resulting in this fear continuously increasing.
My cousin explained that it can be difficult to go outside in public, especially in the moments after a terrorist attack has been publicised heavily in the media. For instance, after the 2015 November shootings in Paris, many people would stare at my cousin with contempt and fear, as if “there was a bomb under my headscarf”. This tends to happen regularly when my cousin uses public transport. People would stare at her with such disgust that it would make her feel uneasy. This has happened repeatedly to the point that it has led to my cousin to come paranoid when using public transport, in case someone does abuse her for being a Muslim. My cousin also felt she has become antagonised and dehumanised, making a simple journey to university unnecessarily uncomfortable. Although some of the stares are intentional with malice, at the same time some of the stares are because of the way society perceives Islam and Muslims.
The increase in Islamophobia and xenophobia is more than visible. My cousin has also described the shock stares given whenever she speaks English. Her English is just like any other person who has been raised in the UK. But people stare at her in shock. Why? Because they had already perceived her in a negative light due to the xenophobic attitude that has infiltrated society. They realise that she is British, but they don’t want to accept it- because she is Muslim.
Like many Muslim women, my cousin wears the hijab. The hijab makes it easier for a Muslim woman to be identified. Muslim women represent Islam physically better than Muslim men do, so in this way they are easier targets for racist bigots. There have been several incidents where Muslim women have experienced hate crimes, namely: verbal abuse, battery, being spat on, being pushed into trains- to name a few. Witnessing the victims of these events has increased the fear for a Muslim woman’s safety, because they know that they are a target. It is a shame that it often goes unreported- have people become desensitised to it because the victim is a Muslim? This might be the tragic reality, and it has led to a permanent paranoia for Muslim women who are too afraid of becoming Muslim victims.
So-called ‘public figures’ such as Tommy Robinson (his real name Stephen Christopher Yaxley-Lennon) and Katie Hopkins contribute to the increasing Islamophobia in the UK which makes Muslim women more vulnerable to hate crime. Both have accumulated a large following on social media which they use to constantly insight hatred for Muslims and Islam. They will unnecessarily attack Islam or Muslims- whether it is blaming crime on them due to their personal beliefs, or blaming the entire religion for a terrorist attack. Not only do they insight hatred, they also significantly increase the ignorance of their followers about Islam and Muslims. This can only provoke more hate crime as people become increasingly intolerant of Muslims. Therefore, as mentioned earlier, Muslim women being more vulnerable allows them to be targeted more often as they are easier to identify.
It appears that Islamophobia intensifies with every publicised terrorist attack. For instance, the Manchester attack in May 2017 and the London Bridge attack in June 2017. Both attacks were highly publicised by media outlets, specifically in a way that it would dehumanise Muslims further. Of course, this leads to many people blaming these attacks on every Muslim with no justifiable reason other than the perpetrator sharing the same faith. However, this is an injustice which never seems to change. It feels like a trend in every terror attack Muslims are blamed for. In every one of these attacks the public jump on the bandwagon of showing their hatred towards Muslims. All of this leads to the point where Muslim women receive a growing amount of hate crime. My cousin has felt that it cannot get any worse, and that it has gotten to the point where it is at its worst. The only solution is to treat this increasing ignorance.
I feel that my cousin’s experiences as a Muslim woman in the UK is something that many Muslim women can relate to. It is sad that they must go through this and suffer from unnecessary abuse. This abuse will only continue as the media continues to dehumanise Muslims. Hate crime towards Muslim women will be the norm. However, I feel there is a way to try and combat this. It is to treat the ignorance; educate and continue to spread peace.
At the same time, the UK needs a government that is tougher on hate crime; creating stricter punishments to deter racist bigots from abusing Muslim women. But ultimately, the media needs to stop dehumanising Muslims and the media also needs to stop giving a platform to those that preach hate and intolerance.
I hope this can give you slightest insight of what it feels like to be a Muslim woman living in the UK. I am a Muslim, but I am not a Muslim woman and thus my words can only go so far. But I hope that the clarity I have brought forward on this issue shows the ongoing struggles for Muslim women, and I also hope that it makes us appreciate Muslim women a lot more for continuing to stay strong