New comment piece published today on the Telegraph Online’s ‘Comment’ section. To view the article, click here.

The text of the piece is also reproduced below:

The worrying rise of attacks fuelled by hatred

Both anti-Semitic and Islamophobic incidents have risen recently as British society becomes more sharply divided, says Chris Allen.

Published: 12:27PM GMT 12 Feb 2010

Last year saw the highest number of anti-Semitic incidents in the UK since recording began in 1984. In a report by the Community Security Trust (CST), a total of 924 incidents including extreme violence, threats to human life and abusive behaviour were recorded, an increase of 69 per cent from the previous year.

The true picture is much worse, as many victims of anti-Semitic attacks are either unable or unwilling to report such crimes. Perhaps the most worrying aspect of this is that attacks of this nature are even more prevalent when you consider the strong similarities between anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, which is also on the rise along with its associated incidents.

Both anti-Semitic and Islamophobic incidents peak around ‘trigger events’ both here and elsewhere in the world. For example, the conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza caused a peak in incidents between January and February 2009. The report links the next highest number of recorded incidents in September to greater visibility of Jewish people in public spaces due to key Jewish festivals.

Similarly, Islamophobic incidents rise after ‘trigger events’ and are perpetrated against the most visible Muslims, in particular Muslim women who wear headscarves and other forms of Islamic attire. These ‘trigger events’ can also be seen elsewhere, for example when Danish Embassies were attacked as a result of the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons controversy.” Such incidents have caused death and serious injury but the consequential fear and distress is felt much more widely and, as with the reporting of anti-Semitic incidents, research has shown that the vast majority of Islamophobic incidents remain un-reported. Even where reported, official sources rarely differentiate between religion and race and unlike CST, no single Muslim organisation is collecting data nationwide – there is now a desperate need to better evidence the extent of Islamophobia.

Islamophobia does not appear to be being taken seriously by the Government, the media or the general public and the situation is becoming increasingly dire – why this is remains unclear. It could be because of a lack of understanding and recognition of the seriousness of Islamophobia; it could be because little ‘hard evidence’ exists; it could also be that anti-Muslim and anti-Islamic attitudes are becoming more socially acceptable. Whatever the reason though, it is clear that neither Islamophobia – nor indeed anti-Semitism – are going to quickly or easily disappear.

Last week’s bleak report on Islamophobic hate crime in London from the European Muslim Research Centre argues that fears and misunderstandings of Muslims were increasingly providing a basis for violent acts. The report found that Muslim Londoners face a threat of violence and intimidation from three primary groups: small violent nationalist groups with similar ideologies as the British National Party; street gangs with no allegiances to the far-right; and a small number of others who appear to be acting on prejudices gained via negative media portrayals of Muslims as terrorists and security threats.

But hate crimes are just the tip of the iceberg. Anti-Muslim and anti-Islamic attitudes are also increasingly commonplace. As the British Social Attitudes Survey recently highlighted, not only are Muslims the least popular religious community in Britain today but over half the population would be bothered by a large mosque being built in their community. Neither of these attitudes are specifically Islamophobic but they do suggest a hardening of attitudes especially when Muslims and Islam are considered against other religions. As Professor David Voas provocatively put it, Muslims are increasingly being understood as posing a threat to British society.

Whilst the CST has a crucial role in monitoring and recording anti-Semitic incidents, solving these problems should not be left to the victims’ communities. Whether anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, homophobia, racism or indeed anything similar, there needs to be a commitment from the politicians, public servants, police, media and general public to address these unwanted and unnecessary discriminations and hatreds head-on.

As was noted at a University of Birmingham conference last December on the issue of Islamophobia, now is the time to get the influential decision-makers to think hard about what still needs to be done. If we do not, then British society will become less fair and less equal, more divided and more disparate and the spectres of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia will continue to rear their ugly heads. If we do, then we will begin the process of socially marginalising Islamophobia and anti-Semitism in the same way that we have racism since the 1970s.

Dr Chris Allen, Research Fellow, Institute of Applied Social Studies, University of Birmingham

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17 thoughts on “Telegraph Online: “The worrying rise of attacks fuelled by hatred”

    1. Silly

      Racist attacks on whites ? Well yeah I agree people of colour can indeed exercise a form of power over whites, if by no other means then certainly by way of racially-motivated violence. But since racial violence is also a power that whites have against people of color, the power that might obtain in such a situation is hardly unique to non-whites.

      Also the power of violence is not really power at all. After all, to exercise this power, one has to break the law and possibly go to jail. What kind of power is it that can only be exercised illegally ? Nope. Power is much more potent when it can be used without having to break the law to do it. So discrimination in lending, though illegal is not going to result in the person going to jail; so too with employment discrimination or racial profiling.

      There are plenty of ways that more powerful groups can deploy racism against less powerful groups without having to break the law to do it : By moving away when too many of them move in (which is something one can only do if one has the option of moving where one wishes, without having to worry about discrimination in housing.) Or one can discriminate in employment but not be subjected to legal penalty, so long as one makes the claim that the black or brown applicant was “less qualified,”

      I can remember having a conversation with this white guy and he was talking about all this reverse racism. And he said “Thanks to reverse racism whites in the UK, don’t feel safe going into certain black or brown areas” even though this was false…I agreed with him for the sake of it and told that “You may have a point, white people may be in danger if they go to certain black or brown areas but seeing as how there aren’t a bunch of white people demanding the right to going into black and brown ghettos, its absence hardly indicates a general state of disadvantage suffered by you white folks” That this was the best example of disadvantage he could come up with, is all the proof one should need that indeed, white racism, though perhaps not the only kind out there, is certainly of a different nature.

  1. And I’m going to trust New Labours figures ?
    White people are the most common race in the UK, so it’s not exactly surprising. How about the percantages of Racist Attacks on Whites in relation to the proportion of Non-Whites as citizens?

  2. I do apologise.

    “Ethnicity
    Data on defendant ethnicity are collected by the CPS in accordance with the agreed criminal justice system
    definitions for the 16+1 ethnic categories. The proportions within each category remained similar to the
    previous year. In 2008-09, 75% of hate crime defendants were identified as belonging to the White British
    category, and 79% were categorised as White. 5% of defendants were identified as Asian, and a further
    5% were identified as Black. 4% of defendants did not state an ethnicity on arrest.
    Data on the religion or belief and disability of defendants has been collected since April 2007 and the
    completeness and accuracy of this data remain under development.”
    75% White.
    5% Asian.
    4% Black.

    Where does the missing 16% go ?

  3. And the main thrust of this is that the CPS has prosecuted more Indigenous White People than Asian or Black people. It doesn’t tell you how many cases of reported racism is ignored.
    And that the majority of CPS Prosecutions have been clearly targeted at the White Indigenous Population.
    Only Whitey can be Racist, or didn’t you know that ?

    1. You’re right…it is the knee jerk reaction that ALL white people are racist. But that can’t be used as an excuse for those white people that ARE racist.

      In the same way because some Muslims have blown themselves up on the Tube, it doesn’t mean that ALL Muslims are about to do the same.

      Let me know what you think of some of the articles I’ve posted about whiteness.

      1. Walls

        I think all white people are racist and have internalized racist thinking. Now you can lie to yourself that you haven’t, but you have, that’s the system that is in operation.

    1. You probably won’t believe it but I am all for wider debates about a range of different social issues be opened up.
      Thanks for all your comments and for the links – I’ll leave it up to visitors to the bog to enquire and comment.
      Thanks,
      Chris

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