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Written evidence submitted to the ALL-PARTY PARLIAMENTARY GROUP ON ISLAMOPHOBIA by

Dr Chris Allen 16th July 2013


Lessons from Woolwich

Institute of Applied Social Studies, School of Social Policy 1|P a g e


1. As research has previously shown, horrific events involving those identifying themselves as ‘Muslim’ or claiming to act in the name of ‘Islam’ have the potential to increase levels of anti-Muslim suspicion and hatredi. 2. Such events have also been shown to ‘trigger’ sharp rises in retaliatory anti-Muslim incidents that are typically temporary and transient, rarely lasting more than a week or two. Undoubtedly, events in Woolwich acted as a 'trigger’. 3. As seen in the protests by the English Defence League (EDL) in Woolwich on the evening of the murder of Lee Rigby, the EDL and other far-right organisations and groups were quick to seek to capitalise on the tragedy, to exploit the situation for political and ideological gain and to exacerbate an already tense situationii. 4. Woolwich also triggered a dramatic rise in far-right activity. This would seem to unequivocally confirm the symbiotic relationship that exists between far-right and Islamist extremists: extremism breeds extremismiii. 5. Whilst the vast majority of anti-Muslim incidents were 'low-level' (e.g. verbal abuse, hijabs being pulled from women's heads, being spat on etc) as opposed to ‘high level' (e.g. violent assaults, murder, firebombing of mosques etc), the impact that all such incidents have on individuals, families, communities and society more widely should neither be diminished nor underestimatediv. 6. Events in Woolwich triggered an unusually high number of attacks on mosques and other buildings associated with Islam and Muslimsv. Of particular concern was the unexploded bomb left outside the Aisha Mosque and Islamic Centre in Walsallvi and the nail bomb blast at the Kanz-ul-Iman Central Jamia Mosque in Tipton, both in the West Midlandsvii. 7. It is necessary to ask the extent to which these incidents might be evidence that retaliatory anti-Muslim incidents are taking an extremely worrying new direction and whether these are showing signs of taking a more organised approach. 8. In seeking to evidence the sharp rise in anti-Muslim incidents, significant attention was paid to the data made available by the Government-funded Tell MAMA (Measuring Anti-

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Muslim attacks) third party monitoring projectviii. Tell MAMA recorded in excess of 200 incidents in the fortnight following Woolwichix. 9. Tell MAMA does not only record criminal incidents. This meant that its data was not ‘like-for-like’ with data made available by various police forces (many of whom do not record anti-Muslim hate crimes), the Association of Chief Police Officers and the TrueVision online reporting systemx. Discrepancies therefore were evident and should have been expected. 10. As has been evident for a number of years, the post-Woolwich period presented an opportunity for a number of individuals to use their positions in the media to publicly attack not only the validity of the data but so too those individuals involved in collecting that dataxi. At times, these attacks were highly personal and viciousxii. 11. It is right to acknowledge the existence of a handful of well-known journalists and commentators who at every opportunity make a concerted effort to not only undermine all evidence relating to anti-Muslim hatred but also to try and de-rail all attempts to tackle it at the political and policy levelsxiii. 12. It is interesting to note that whilst in the past many of these individuals have suggested that their opposition has been against the concept and term ‘Islamophobia’ as opposed anti-Muslim hatredxiv, following Woolwich their attacks have been the same despite the term ‘Islamophobia’ rarely being used or prominently referred to. 13. However, it is necessary to acknowledge that some valid questions were raised about the way in which data about anti-Muslim incidents were presented and communicated. These questions relate to the ‘numbers’ of incidents as also those incidents that appeared to have occurred outside of the UK and which took place onlinexv. 14. It is worth stressing the need to ensure that when evidencing and communicating about anti-Muslim hatred – as indeed all other forms of discriminatory phenomena - evidence is robust and objective and that communication is transparent and concisexvi. 15. In terms of ‘numbers’, it is worth noting that irrespective of which data is considered, the ‘numbers’ are likely to have been under-reported. Research funded by the European Union suggests that 79% of victims of anti-Muslim discrimination do not report their discriminatory experience to any institution or official agencyxvii.

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This was evident after the events of 9/11, see the report I co-authored with Professor Jorgen

Nielsen on behalf of the European Union Monitoring Centre on Racism & Xenophobia in 2002 http://issuu.com/drchrisallen/docs/eumc_synthesis_report_2002 and following 7/7, see p.18 of a report I wrote on behalf of the National Association of Muslim Police (NAMP) in 2010 http://issuu.com/drchrisallen/docs/namp_report ii

See my 2013 article for The Conversation, “EDL uses an old playbook to spread message of hate”

https://theconversation.com/edl-uses-an-old-playbook-to-spread-message-of-hate-14611 iii

See section 1.23 in my 2007 article “The death of multiculturalism: blaming and shaming British

Muslims” http://www.dur.ac.uk/anthropology.journal/vol14/iss1/allen.html iv

For an explanation of the different types of anti-Muslim and Islamophobic incident, see my co-

authored 2002 report http://issuu.com/drchrisallen/docs/eumc_synthesis_report_2002 or my 2010 book, “Islamophobia” published by Ashgate v

See my 2013 article for the New Statesman, “For their attackers, mosques are seen as places of

‘difference’” http://www.newstatesman.com/voices/2013/06/their-attackers-mosques-are-seenplaces-difference vi

This event was widely reported including by the BBC http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-

birmingham-23019142 and the Guardian http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jun/23/bombfound-outside-walsall-mosque amongst others vii

See the report from the BBC http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-birmingham-23291268 and the local

newspaper, the Express & Star http://www.expressandstar.com/news/2013/07/12/loud-bang-heard-neartipton-mosque/ amongst others. viii ix

See Tell MAMA’s website for more information http://tellmamauk.org/

These ‘numbers’ were reported widely at the national level, see for instance the Guardian

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2013/may/28/woolwich-murder-200-islamophobic-incidences and also at the local level, see for instance the Belfast Telegraph http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/local-national/uk/woolwich-attack-number-ofislamophobic-incidents-continues-to-rise-with-ten-attacks-on-mosques-since-murder-of-soldier-leerigby-29300306.html x

See my 2013 article for the Huffington Post, “Why the 'Daily Telegraph' and 'Daily Mail' are wrong

about Islamophobia and anti-Muslim hate crime” http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/dr-chrisallen/islamophobia-uk-media_b_3377525.html xi

See for example Andrew Gilligan’s article on the Telegraph website

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/terrorism-in-the-uk/10093568/The-truth-about-thewave-of-attacks-on-Muslims-after-Woolwich-murder.html, a follow-up report in the Daily Mail 4|P a g e

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2334897/Truth-wave-attacks-Muslims-Woolwich-killingMost-incidents-recorded-offensive-messages-Facebook-Twitter.html and Charles Moore article also for the Telegraph http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/terrorism-in-theuk/10120706/Woolwich-outrage-we-are-too-weak-to-face-up-to-the-extremism-in-our-midst.html xii

I draw particular attention to Andrew Gilligan’s article

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/terrorism-in-the-uk/10093568/The-truth-about-thewave-of-attacks-on-Muslims-after-Woolwich-murder.html, as also Charles Moore’s http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/terrorism-in-the-uk/10120706/Woolwich-outrage-weare-too-weak-to-face-up-to-the-extremism-in-our-midst.html xiii

See my July 2011 report to the All Party Parliamentary Group on Islamophobia, “’A momentous

occasion’: an independent report to the All Party Parliamentary Group on Islamophobia” in particular the section on ‘Commentators’ (p.43 onwards) http://issuu.com/drchrisallen/docs/chrisallen-appg_narrative_report-july_2011. See also my 2013 article for the Huffington Post, “Arson, attack and accusation: the need for balance and realism when considering Islamophobia” http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/dr-chris-allen/islamisationarson-attack-accusation_b_3417952.html xiv

For example, see Andrew Gilligan’s comments on the Telegraph website: “too often, the charge of

‘Islamophobia’ has been used by Islamists to stifle and deter examination of their own actions. They deliberately conflate Islamism (followed by a tiny minority of British Muslims) with the entire faith of Islam, and accuse anyone who scrutinises or attacks their minority brand of fundamentalism of being “anti-Muslim” http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/andrewgilligan/100065538/islamists-establish-abridgehead-in-parliament/ xv

See my 2013 article for the Huffington Post, “Why the 'Daily Telegraph' and 'Daily Mail' are wrong

about Islamophobia and anti-Muslim hate crime” http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/dr-chrisallen/islamophobia-uk-media_b_3377525.html xvi

See my 2013 article for the Huffington Post, “Arson, attack and accusation: the need for balance

and realism when considering Islamophobia” http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/dr-chrisallen/islamisation-arson-attack-accusation_b_3417952.html xvii

See the 2009 report published by the Fundamental Rights Agency, “Data in focus: Muslims”


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Profile for Chris Allen

Written evidence to the All Party Parliamentary Group on Islamophobia post-Woolwich 2013  

Written evidence for the APPG meeting focusing on 'lessons from Woolwich'.

Written evidence to the All Party Parliamentary Group on Islamophobia post-Woolwich 2013  

Written evidence for the APPG meeting focusing on 'lessons from Woolwich'.