In November 1997 the Runnymede Trust published Islamophobia: A Challenge for Us All. The report, though contentious, is widely recognized as an important step towards anti-Muslim prejudice being more thoroughly researched, better understood and taken more seriously in the UK.
Just over twenty years on much has changed, sometimes for the better, yet sadly, sometimes for the worse. As the Runnymede Trust pointed out themselves last year, British Muslim’s still have higher poverty rates, including both child poverty and in-work poverty, and the highest rates of unemployment, while hate crimes against Muslims have “undoubtedly risen in the past twenty years”.
In many ways, the world now is unrecognisable to what it was 1997. While prejudice, racism, discrimination and hatred are constants, sadly unbowed by time and progress, the study of modern Islamophobia can be split into pre- and post-September 11, 2001. While those towers collapsed in Manhattan, the seismic vibrations have been and continue to be, felt all over the world. The tragic images were forever burned into our collective conscience and for many still loom large over their perception of Islam and Muslims in the West.
Since then, the wars and occupations in Afghanistan and Iraq, the 2004 Madrid train bombings, the 7/7 attacks in London, the rise of the Islamic State, the 2015 Migrant Crisis and the wave of terrorist attacks in France, Belgium, Germany, Britain and Spain over the last few years have all impacted islamophobia in Europe and North America.
Racism and anti-Muslim prejudice predate all these events and would continue to exist even if they had never happened but we have to understand their unquestionable impact. The shameful notion of collective responsibility, exacerbated by elements of an irresponsible and prejudiced press, have meant that major world events have tangible and often terrifying repercussions for ordinary Muslims on the streets of towns and cities across the West.
When the Runnymede Trust published its 1997 Report it was in some ways unique. Thankfully now far more research has been done into the causes, effects and nature of Islamophobia. To mention just a fraction, there is now the annual extensive European Islamophobia Report, the last of which included reports from 27 countries across the continent. Here in the UK there are organisations such as Tell MAMA that track anti-Muslim hate crimes and support victims, while the Runnymede Trust has published a very useful anniversary report titled Islamophobia: Still a challenge for us all.
There is also an ever-expanding number of international scholars producing invaluable research on the topic, not least the Islamophobia Studies Journal and the Islamophobia Research and Documentation Project hosted at the University of California Berkeley.
Since HOPE not hate was first founded we have been challenging anti-Muslim prejudice. However, it was in 2012 that we produced our first Counter-Jihad Report, which was an important exploration into an under-researched area, namely the so-called ‘counter-jihad’ movement and the emergent conspiratorial ideology that drove it forward.
Since then we have published numerous updates to that report, continuously monitored organised anti-Muslim individuals and organisations internationally, and published numerous other reports such as Going Mainstream: The mainstreaming of anti-Muslim prejudice in Europe and North America, The Anti-Muslim Message on Social Media and the Breitbart Report last year.
While we, of course, understand the existence of structural Islamophobia, covered admirably by a number of the organisations and scholars mentioned above, our work at HOPE not hate focuses more on particular anti-Muslim individuals and organisations. Our full-time monitoring of this area gives us the ability to contribute something different to many working in this field.
This report profiles hundreds of Islamophobic individuals and organisations from across the globe. Split into thematic sections including anti-Muslim Street Movements, the Ideas Engine and International Counter-Jihadism, this report, running to over 75,000 words, will be the most extensive of its kind yet produced.