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What is Islamophobia?

There are several different definitions of Islamophobia, and not everyone agrees what the term means. Generally it is the word used to describe prejudice against, hatred towards or the fear of Islam and Muslim people and their culture.

Young woman with headscarf talking to an adult male

We know that not all young Muslim people who are picked on or targeted because of their religion see it as Islamophobia. Some young people try to ignore or laugh off incidents, while others don’t bother telling anyone or reporting the behaviour because they don’t know who to talk to.

For most young people who experience Islamophobia, it often takes the form of a hate crime or a hate incident. 

What is a hate crime or a hate incident?

A hate crime is any criminal offence, such as when someone is abusive, harasses you, makes threats or is violent towards you, because of your identity – in this case, because you are Muslim (or because someone thinks you are Muslim e.g. there have been incidents against Sikh people thought to be Muslims because of the clothing they wear).

A hate incident is when you may be experiencing abuse, but the level of abuse is not classed as a crime e.g. comments about dress, jokes around extremists or terrorists, or being made to feel you are being left about because of your identity because you are a Muslim (or because someone thinks you are a Muslim).

It can be difficult to understand the difference between a hate crime and a hate incident, but it’s important to remember that Islamophobic behaviour is never okay or acceptable, and that no-one has the right to bully, abuse, threaten, intimidate or harass you because of your religion. Most importantly, it’s not your fault. There are people – both police and support organisations – who you can report incidents to and who can give you help and advice.

How do people experience Islamophobia?

There is a wide range of anti-Muslim behaviour that can be described as Islamophobia, from a one-off abusive remark or name calling through to a serious physical assault. But whatever the incident, it can be really frightening to be targeted simply because you are Muslim, or because someone thinks you are.

Hate crimes can include: 

  • threats, bullying or verbal abuse (such as name calling) 
  • online or cyber-bullying, including getting unkind or threatening messages through text, email or social networking. This can also include anti-Muslim graphics with no text being posted on social media; this is also form of anti-Muslim hate
  • antisocial behaviour – when other people’s actions make you feel harassed, scared or unhappy
  • assault – when someone physically hurts you or threatens to physically hurt you
  • criminal damage or graffiti
  • distributing anti-Muslim literature, such as leaflets or magazines with anti-Muslim content

When and where does Islamophobia take place?

Islamophobic hate crimes and hate incidents can happen at home, school or college, work, on the streets or on the internet. 

Some young people have found that Islamophobia and anti-Muslim hate crime or hate incidents have happened more and more online, through social media such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and on websites and chat rooms.

Young people tell us that Islamophobic incidents can often be carried out by people they know. It is important to remember that if this is happening in your school, that teachers have a responsibility to keep you safe. This could be through awareness raising sessions in class to help people understand what Islam really stands for.

Others have experienced more anti-Muslim incidents and abuse when there have been stories focusing on negative examples of Muslims in the media – such as terrorist attacks, or the child abuse investigations in areas such as Rotherham and Rochdale, or when there are specific holy days such as Eid celebrations when there are more people visible as Muslims going to mosques with their families. 

If you have experienced any of these incidents or attitudes, it’s important to remember that what’s happening isn’t your fault, and you haven’t done anything wrong. No one has the right to hurt you, scare you or upset you because of who you are or what you believe, and there are things you can do to keep yourself safe, and to try to stop hate crimes and hate incidents happening again.

Why are people Islamophobic, or carry out anti-Muslim attacks?

Being a victim of Islamophobia is not your fault, and it’s not ok for somebody to act this way towards you. People may target Muslims or commit hate crimes because they:

  • cannot accept those who are different to them
  • have been taught or brought up with these beliefs
  • feel threatened by certain groups in the community
  • have been influenced by others in the community, or coverage in the media
  • have negative thoughts from a past experience and are taking it out on you or someone you know
  • have an ideology based on extremist far right thinking that certain groups do not deserve the same rights as others.

It is important to recognise that this can manifest itself through Islamophobia at a street level or in the online environment.

Do boys and girls experience Islamophobia differently?

Girls and young women may also have different experiences of Islamophobic hate incidents or hate crimes to boys and young men. For example, some young women and girls who wear traditional dress such as the niqab, hijab or jilbab feel they have been picked on because of their clothing.

Muslim boys and young men have also been targeted because of their traditional dress or because they had a beard or a Muslim prayer cap.

What can I do?

Living in the UK can be tricky for some young Muslims, especially when high profile events such as the Charlie Hebdo attack or the Tunisia attack are in the media.

Becoming a victim of Islamophobic hate crime, or being targeted because you are Muslim, can make you feel worried, sad or angry, especially if you feel like you’re trying to deal with this all on your own. However, lots of children and young people find that it can help if they talk to someone.

Here are some of the things you can do:

  • If you feel that you are in immediate risk of getting hurt, you should contact the police straight away on 999. Remember – staying safe is the most important thing.
  • Write down the things that have happened as soon you can after they’ve happened, including times, dates and (if possible) descriptions of the people involved.
  • Keep evidence, such as any notes or letters, and don’t delete abusive text messages, emails or voicemails. You may also want to take snapshots of on-line graphics or materials that may have been sent to you. If you decide to report the crime, these can be used as evidence and may help to identify the person or people harming you. Even if you don’t want to report it now, this could be useful later on; if the crime leads to a trial, the courts can also give a longer sentence than for a similar crime with no hate motive.
  • Tell an adult you trust – this could include a teacher, a family member, a member of your mosque, your youth worker, social worker or support worker. It can be difficult to know how to have this conversation; we have some tips on asking for help.
  • With an adult you trust, you could develop a safety plan that would help you choose how best to keep yourself safe.
  • Talk to your friends. A good friend will listen to you and may help you speak to an adult. 
  • You can report hate crime anonymously online through Crimestoppers or Report-it; you can also report (either online or on the phone) Islamophobia or anti-Muslim incidents to other organisations, such as Tell MAMA or Stop Hate UK.
  • If you have friends or family who are suffering in the same way as you, they should think about reporting the crime too; the more people reporting it, the more likely it is to be stopped.
  • Speak to your local Safer Neighbourhood team who are police in the local community. You can do this by looking at your local police website for more information. 
  • You can also check on your local police website to see if you have a local Hate Crime Unit that you can report incidents to.
  • Check out our news story and more information around our project on young people’s experience of Islamophobia.

You&Co have also developed some resources for your parents and other professionals to help them understand more around young people and Islamophobia: 

If you are worried about a friend, we have some tips on how you can start the conversation and get them the right help.

Who can help me?

You & Co – you can talk to one of our support workers on a one-to-one basis, and we can offer you help and support, whether or not you decide to report anti-Muslim hate crimes or incidents to police. We can give you advice on how crime can affect you and how to cope with it, what to do and what to expect if you decide to report a crime to police, and how to move on from being a victim of crime. You can find out about the support available nearest to you on this website.

You & Co have developed some resources for your parents to help them understand more about young people and Islamophobia.

There are also resources to help other professionals understand more about young people and Islamophobia.

Tell MAMA (Measuring Anti-Muslim Attacks) – this specialist Muslim third-party reporting organisation is independent and free to use. You can contact Tell MAMA directly (online or over the phone), and they can report the incident to the police on your behalf (anonymously, if you wish), liaise with the police and other agencies on your behalf, and offer support and assistance; call 0800 456 1226.

StopHateUK – this national organisation works to challenge all forms of hate crime and discrimination, and has a 24-hour helpline where people experiencing hate crime can get advice and support; call 0800 138 1625.

Muslim Youth Helpline – this free and confidential helpline offers advice and support to young Muslims, particularly in relation to social problems you may face in the UK; call 0808 808 2008.

Imaan – this organisation supports LGBT Muslim people, their families and friends, to address issues of sexual orientation within Islam, providing a safe space and support network to share individual experiences and institutional resources.

Report-it – this organisation has an online reporting form and lists of agencies who can support you.

Crimestoppers – if you want to provide information about a crime without talking to the police, you can contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

ChildLine – they offer 24-hour support for young people on a range of issues. Call 0800 1111.

The Mix – this website provides information and support for 16-25 year olds on a whole range of issues, including rape and sexual assault as well as safe sexual relationships. Get confidential help by telephone, email, text or webchat, for young people under 25; call 0808 808 4994.

Citizens Advice Bureau – they have specially trained volunteers who can give you advice on your rights.

 

Maryam's experience

Young people and Islamophobia

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