Women targeted in rising tide of attacks on Muslims

June 28, 2014

More than half of Islamophobic attacks in Britain are committed against women, who are typically targeted because they are wearing clothing associated with Islam, new data reveals. The figures of anti-Muslim attacks, compiled in the nine months following the murder of soldier Lee Rigby in May 2013, come days after Saudi Arabian student Nahid Almanea was stabbed to death in Essex, with detectives believing that she may have been attacked because she was wearing traditional Islamic clothing.

In a study of calls to the Tell Mama hotline, which records Islamophobic crimes, academics at Teesside University found there were on average two incidents every day over the period. Victims reported a total of 734 incidents to the hotline between the start of May last year and 28 February 2014, broken down into 599 incidents of online abuse and 135 offline attacks – an increase of almost 20% on the same period the previous year. One aspect of the figures indicates an apparent lack of trust in police to deal with Islamophobic incidents, with one in six victims choosing not to report the incident to authorities.

The Teesside report, says more effort is required to foster greater trust between the Muslim community and authorities. “Supporting victims and encouraging them to come forward to report a hate crime remains the highest priority,” the report says. “Alongside addressing under-reporting, authorities should be encouraged to disaggregate hate crimes by strand, and to take seriously the increased incidence of anti-Muslim hate crime.”

The data also revealed that – unlike most incidents of hate crime, which overwhelmingly involve male perpetrators and victims – 54% of the victims of Islamophobia were female. One theory is that Muslim women are more “visibly” Muslim because of traditional clothing such as the hijab or abaya. The figures show that four in five victims attacked in the street or elsewhere were females wearing visibly Muslim clothing; almost the same proportion of alleged perpetrators offline were young, white men.

Overall, the data are in contrast to the trend for hate crime, with government figures showing the number of reported attacks falling. Other findings from the report confirm that a significant number of incidents reported to the hotline involved a link to far-right groups such as the English Defence League. A far-right connection was traceable in almost half of reported Islamophobic online abuse.

Saudi student may have been murdered because she was wearing a hijab

June 18, 2014

Detectives are investigating whether a Saudi student was murdered in a frenzied knife attack because her traditional Islamic dress marked her out as a Muslim. Nahid Almanea, a 31-year-old student at the University of Essex, was wearing a hijab and a full-length navy blue robe, called an abaya, when she was knifed to death on a footpath in Colchester on Tuesday morning. She died at the scene from injuries to her head and body, said police. Ms Almanea arrived in Britain several months ago with her younger brother to study at the university, according to a fellow student.

Nothing was stolen from Ms Almanea and police have asked residents living on the nearby Greenstead estate to check their bins for a discarded weapon. “We are also conscious the dress of the victim will have identified her as likely being a Muslim and this is one of the main lines of the investigation but again there is no firm evidence at this time that she was targeted because of her religion,” said Detective Superintendent Tracy Hawkings. A 52-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of murder and was being held at a police station last night.

Officers are also looking at possible links with the murder of James Attfield, a vulnerable man with brain damage, who died after being stabbed more than 100 times at a park in the town in March. “There are some immediate similarities between this murder and that of James Attfield but there are also a large number of differences as well,” said the detective. “There is no current known motive for this attack and we are keeping an open mind and exploring all possible avenues of investigation.”