Yesterday, Quilliam hosted an event on the subject of anti-Muslim hate crime in the UK. It was based on key findings from a new report by Tell MAMA – a public service organisation set up to measure and monitor anti-Muslim attacks. The event was attended to full capacity by a lively and engaging audience.

The discussion was led by Fiyaz Mughal, Director of Tell MAMA, and included contributions from James Bloodworth (editor of popular left-wing blog Left Foot Forward) and Dr Usama Hasan (Senior Researcher in Islamic Studies at Quilliam). The discussion focussed on national trends in hate crime, the symbiosis between Islamist extremism and far-right extremism and identifying the various agents that contribute to anti-Muslim sentiment.

According to Fiyaz Mughal, often, acts of terrorism like the brutal murder of Drummer Lee Rigby prompt a rise in anti-Muslim hate crimes, something that has been corroborated by the Metropolitan Police. He went on to argue that extremism and anti-Muslim hatred online are both increasingly important to keep tabs on, as our lives shift more and more online. But this presents methodological difficulties as hoaxes are prevalent, anonymity is possible and it is unclear whether a tweet, for example, should be given equal credence to a physical attack.

James Bloodworth discussed the media’s responsibility in reporting on both extremism and anti-Muslim hatred. He emphasised the importance of the media avoiding inflammatory language as well as the importance of fact checking. Media organisations, he held, must find a middle ground between being apologists for Islamist extremism, and inciting it by reporting in a sensationalist way on stories involving Muslims.

Dr Hasan noted that, with three million Muslims in the UK with full religious, political and ethnic diversity, intra-Muslim hatred is also worth assessing, especially since the ‘Muslim community’ is highly diverse and heterogeneous. Relating this phenomena to current events, he also noted that 90% or more of al-Qaeda or ISIS victims are Muslims. He went on to say that, violent and non-violent extremism is something to be dealt with hand in hand with anti-Muslim hate crimes. The UK has complete freedom of religion for all Muslims, whether Shia, Sunni, Sufi etc., and we have a responsibility to protect that, both in the UK and abroad.

He added, the community leader model is now dead and ‘citizenship’ is a more useful concept, and is a key tenet alongside democracy, pluralism, tolerance, equality and respect for human rights to counter both extremism and anti-Muslim hate crimes.

Extremists exploit very real grievances caused by anti-Muslim hate crime in their narratives to radicalise others. While we need to improve community resilience and trust in the authorities so that hate crimes do not go unreported, we also have to make sure that the debate is not exploited by extremists with nefarious intentions. Recognising that the number of hate crimes are relatively small and are perpetrated by a minority will help people to recognise that we do live in a society in which the vast majority of people get along.