‘People grab our veils, call us terrorists and want us dead’: What it’s really like to be a Muslim woman in Britain

6th May 2014

“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 specialises in women’s rights and culture.

“Either you’re with us. Or you’re with the terrorists,” announced the then president of the USA George W Bush in a sombre tone at a press conference following the attacks. And many people decided that all Muslims were against ‘us’. Everything was under scrutiny. Their style of dress, their beliefs, their way of life. People that had never even read the Qur’an believed they had more knowledge than Islamic scholars.

A report from the University of Birmingham, ‘Maybe we are hated: The experience and impact of anti-Muslim hate on British Muslim women’, says Muslim women are repeated victims of anti-Muslim hate. It cites verified figures from Tell MAMA (Measuring Anti-Muslim Attacks), which show attacks on Muslim women account for 58 per cent of all incidents reported to it. Of those, 80 per cent were visually identifiable (wearing hijab, niqab, or other clothing associated with Islam).

Zab Mustefa also said “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. 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.”

It’s not even solely white British people who make these comments – it’s also fellow ethnic minorities, although the really angry rhetoric has come from white British people. Sadly with so much Islamophobic rhetoric being used, in some cases by politicians looking to score points by feeding people’s fears, this problem may get even worse.

 

TAGS: Issues in Politics, Islamic Practice and Jurisprudence, Youth and Pop Culture, Public Opinion and Islam in the Media

“The True American”: The hate-crime victim who pleaded for his attacker’s life

The true story of a Muslim immigrant who tried to save the white supremacist who shot him in the face

On Sept. 21, 2001, Rais Bhuiyan, a Bangladeshi immigrant, was working in a gas station minimart in Dallas when a burly man with tattoo-covered arms walked up to the counter and pulled out a shotgun. Bhuiyan moved to hand over the money in the cash register, but the man seemed uninterested in that. “Where are you from?” he demanded to know, before shooting Bhuiyan in the face.

Although the shotgun’s pellets missed Bhuiyan’s brain by millimeters, 35 of them remain lodged in his body to this day; he is nearly blind in one eye. His would-be killer, who apparently thought he’d finished Bhuiyan off, had already killed Waqar Hasan, also a convenience-store worker, and would go on to kill another man, Vasudev Patel, 11 days later. When he was caught shortly afterward, Mark Stroman, who mistakenly believed that his victims were Arabs, would claim to be an “allied combatant” in the newly declared war on terror, a self-proclaimed “American terrorist,” striking back at those who, he wrote, “sought to bring the exact same chaos and bewilderment upon our people and society as they lived in themselves at home and abroad.”

Stroman turned out to be an ex-con and rumored member of the Aryan Brotherhood with a long history of trouble with the law. Despite his belief that hate-crimes legislation levied extra punishment on people like him, prosecutors had to try him for killing Vasudev Patel while committing the crime of robbery because only then was he eligible for the death penalty. Nevertheless, as the prosecutor acknowledged to Indian-American journalist Anand Giridharadas, whose moving and indelible “The True American: Murder and Mercy in Texas” tells the extraordinary story of Stroman’s crime and its aftermath, it was the hatred behind Stroman’s actions that made the state’s attorneys determined to send him to death row. They succeeded.

It’s a manifestly inspirational story, the kind easily told in a newspaper article to which readers can and have attached comments marveling over the human capacity for goodness and the irony of a Muslim behaving with greater Christian charity than the jingoistic Bible thumpers all around him. Bhuiyan became a potent public speaker. When he finally got the chance to make his plea for Stroman’s life at a hearing on the day the execution was scheduled to take place, his words left listeners — including that most stoic of all legal professionals, the court reporter — in tears.

Muslims in the West After 9/11

This book is the first systematic attempt to study the situation of European and American Muslims after 9/11, and to present a comprehensive analysis of their religious, political, and legal situations.

Since 9/11, and particularly since the Madrid and London bombings of 2004 and 2005, the Muslim presence in Europe and the United States has become a major political concern. Many have raised questions regarding potential links between Western Muslims, radical Islam, and terrorism. Whatever the justification of such concerns, it is insufficient to address the subject of Muslims in the West from an exclusively counter-terrorist perspective. Based on empirical studies of Muslims in the US and Western Europe, this edited volume posits the situation of Muslim minorities in a broader reflection on the status of liberalism in Western foreign policies. It also explores the changes in immigration policies, multiculturalism and secularism that have been shaped by the new international context of the ‘war on terror’.

American Muslims Widely Seen as Facing Discrimination

Eight years after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, Americans see Muslims as facing more discrimination inside the U.S. than other major religious groups. Nearly six-in-ten adults (58 percent) say that Muslims are subject to a lot of discrimination, far more than say the same about Jews, evangelical Christians, atheists or Mormons. In fact, of all the groups asked about, only gays and lesbians are seen as facing more discrimination than Muslims, with nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of the public saying there is a lot of discrimination against homosexuals.

The poll also finds that two-thirds of non-Muslims (65 percent) say that Islam and their own faith are either very different or somewhat different, while just 17 percent take the view that Islam and their own religion are somewhat or very similar. But Islam is not the only religion that Americans see as mostly different from their own. When asked about faiths other than their own, six-in-ten adults say Buddhism is mostly different, with similar numbers saying the same about Mormonism (59 percent) and Hinduism (57 percent).

By a smaller margin, Americans are also inclined to view Judaism and Catholicism as somewhat or very different from their own faith (47 percent different vs. 35 percent similar for Judaism, 49 percent different vs. 43 percent similar for Catholicism). Only when asked about Protestantism do perceived similarities outweigh perceived differences, with 44 percent of non-Protestants in the survey saying Protestantism and their own faith are similar and 38 percent saying they are different.

Results from the latest national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press and the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, conducted Aug. 11-17 among 2,010 adults reached on both landlines and cell phones, reveal that high levels of perceived similarity with religious groups are associated with more favorable views of those groups. Those who see their own faith as similar to Catholicism, Judaism, Mormonism and Islam are significantly more likely than others to have favorable views of members of these groups.

Detailed questions about perceptions of Islam show that a plurality of the public (45 percent) says Islam is no more likely than other faiths to encourage violence among its believers; 38 percent take the opposite view, saying that Islam does encourage violence more than other faiths do. Views on this question have fluctuated in recent years, with the current findings showing that the view that Islam is connected with violence has declined since 2007, when 45 percent of the public said that Islam encourages violence more than other religions do.

Almost half of Americans (45 percent) say they personally know someone who is Muslim. Also, slim majorities of the public are able to correctly answer questions about the name Muslims use to refer to God (53 percent) and the name of Islam’s sacred text (52 percent), with four-in-ten (41 percent) correctly answering both “Allah” and “the Koran.” These results are consistent with recent years and show modest increases in Americans’ familiarity with Islam compared with the months following the 9/11 attacks. Those people who know a Muslim are less likely to see Islam as encouraging of violence; similarly, those who are most familiar with Islam and Muslims are most likely to express favorable views of Muslims and to see similarities between Islam and their own religion.