LONDON: The Islamophobiac incidents rose by 375 per cent in the week after Boris Johnson compared veiled Muslim women to “letterboxes”, research has shown.
According to an Independent report, monitoring group Tell Mama said the Daily Telegraph column written by the now-prime minister was followed by the biggest spike in anti-Muslim hatred in 2018, as his words were repeated by racists abusing Muslims on the street and online.
In the three weeks after the article was published last August, 42 per cent of offline Islamophobic incidents reported “directly referenced Boris Johnson and/or the language used in his column”, a report said.
Many were directed at visibly Muslim women who wore the niqab or other veils, who were called “letterboxes” and “ninjas”.
Online abuse reported to Tell Mama repeated the same words or incorporated them into pictures and memes that were sent to Muslims online.
“Mr Johnson faced no punitive action from the Conservative Party and many high-profile figures offered their support for his right to freely speak about Islamic clothing,” Tell Mama said. “Some will feel emboldened by the lack of sufficient castigation from the Conservative Party towards Mr Johnson and will use it as a pretext to act on their underlying prejudices and racist views.
“The consequent rise in anti-Muslim attacks, focusing on the same victims and using the same language, shows us that those with anti-Muslim sentiments feel confident and vindicated.”
Tell Mama’s research shows Muslim women already endure the highest levels of Islamophobic hatred and make up the majority of victims, while most known perpetrators are white men.
The organisation’s annual report, entitled Normalising Hate, said some politicians had defended Mr Johnson and suggested a “distressing willingness of some MPs to stir anti-Muslim sentiments because they regard it as a vote-winning strategy”.
Dawn Butler, Labour’s shadow equalities secretary, called the figures “chilling”.
“The fact that this same MP is now the prime minister, is stomach-turning and shames our country,” she added.
Tell Mama found the US president’s attacks on Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, and wider statements on Islam “have triggered further harmful debates about Muslims in Britain”.
The report warned of the impact of conspiracy theories including the “great replacement”, which was cited by the Christchurch shooter and other far-right terrorists as a key motivation.
Religious hate crime rises 40% in England and Wales – with more than half directed at Muslims In total, Tell Mama received 2,963 reports of anti-Muslim hate incidents in 2018. It took 1,072 verified reports, of which 70 per cent happened on the street and 30 per cent online.
The group received reports of a further 1,891 anti-Muslim hate crimes and incidents through data-sharing agreements with 20 police forces in the UK.