Islamophobia in the UK

Mary Hunter

Tell MAMA, an independent organisation that allows people to safely report Islamophobic incidents, condensed into a poster the “Behavioural changes in everyday life for Muslims in North East England 2019.”

This poster suggested that, in order to “avoid anti-Muslim hatred,” Muslims in North East England changed their behaviour in ways such as this:

  • They avoided places at night
  • They did not challenge racism for “fear of escalation”
  • They increasingly changed the way they spoke or dressed to behave as a “non-Muslim”
  • Some even moved to areas which had a larger Muslim community

As a woman, these behavioural changes are reminiscent of the sort of things women do to avoid unwanted attention and misogynistic behaviour, including avoiding being alone at night and dressing in a certain way. But fortunately, though sexism still exists, the plight of women is often discussed and taken seriously.

However, the abuse suffered by Muslims has not been dealt with to the same degree. Year on year, reports on reported hate crimes, such as by the organisation Hope Not Hate, show that Muslims are disproportionately targeted in religiously motivated hate crimes. How can the UK claim to be religiously tolerant when Muslims, who number around 3 million in the UK, suffer around half of all religiously motivated hate crime?

Islamophobia in the UK is not limited to the odd, insensitive remark. It is systematic, whether as organised by far-right Islamophobes like Tommy Robinson or as reflected in the anti-Muslim sentiment of the Conservative Party. Yet, the issue is rarely presented as a serious issue in UK politics and seemingly only mentioned when it suits a political party to score points with their Muslim voters.

Many things are required to ensure that Muslims never feel like they have to alter their behaviour purely for being who they are. The first way is education. Adults who hold anti-Muslim sentiments would likely have been taught by family or schools to feel the way they do. Islamophobia, which by definition is a fear, is largely based on a common logical fallacy, which is the idea that an entire religion can be judged according to the actions of a minority within that religion.

In the UK, Muslims tend to suffer higher rates of hate crime after an ‘Islamic’ terrorist attack, like those in 2017. Islamophobes then use those attacks to justify their vandalism of mosques or beatings of innocent Muslims. The actions of terrorists can never be said to represent Islam, not only because terrorism is inconsistent with Islam but also because the overwhelming majority of Muslims are kind and peaceable people.

The second way is action. Politicians and law enforcement can no longer turn a blind eye to Islamophobia and more must be done. The lives of Muslims cannot only be considered important when there is an election looming. Our Muslims must be openly celebrated and given equal opportunity in representation so that they may support their own communities and show Islamophobes that they are as much a part of this country as anyone else.

Mary studied Theology at the University of St. Andrews and is a co-founder of Interfaith Exchange. She currently lives in London working as a research fellow.

Cover photo courtesy of John Foehner on

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