Survey: Policy, media fuel “environment of hate” for British Muslims

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Most British Muslims believe misguided government policies and biased media coverage have created an “environment of hate” that affects their daily lives, according to a survey by a London-based human rights group.

“Everyday life for Muslims in Britain is characterized by rising levels of abuse, discrimination and violence,” said the Islamic Human Rights Commission ahead of next week’s publication of its full report.

The group questioned 1,782 British Muslims on their experience of “hostility and discrimination” and said its report “paints a disturbing picture of a community under siege from the prevailing winds of racial and religious bigotry.”

The report, Environment of Hate: The new normal for Muslims in the UK, found “increasing incidence of verbal abuse, discrimination, and physical violence.”

More than 80 per cent of respondents said they had seen “Islamophobia directed at someone else,” up from 50 per cent in 2010, while the proportion who had witnessed “negative stereotypes about Islam and Muslims” rose from 69 per cent to 93 per cent.

Some 56 per cent of the Muslims reported experiencing verbal abuse, and 18 per cent said they had been victims of physical assault, the group said.

The authors of the report conclude that the “hate environment” has been “deliberately whipped up by the media, politicians and the commentariat, the purpose of which is to ‘otherize’ Muslims and legitimize discriminatory treatment of them through official policy.”

The group argues that the government is wrong to focus on individual hate crimes, which are “not random acts of deranged individuals” but acts “provoked by an environment of hatred.”

“What we really need is a culture change,” Arzu Merali, one of the report’s authors, told the BBC.

“We have an environment now, where Muslim people feel they are suspected and where life is increasingly difficult,” Merali said.

“The impact of government policies, in particular those related with security, have really had an impact on silencing Muslims – not from a point of view of just talking about political issues, but even to report anti-Muslim hatred,” she told the broadcaster.

Prime Minister David Cameron promised more support for Muslims last month after police recorded a 43-per-cent rise in religious hate crime in the year to March.

Cameron asked police forces to record anti-Muslim hate crimes in a separate category, giving such crimes the same status as anti-Semitic attacks, the government said.

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