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Supporting students who experience anti-Muslim hatred

Fiyaz Mughal

Fiyaz Mughal

Founder and Director, 2011–16
Tell MAMA

​Last year, the final report of the Universities UK Taskforce to examine violence against women, harassment and hate crime affecting university students emphasised the importance of working with local and national partners to support students who experience such incidents. One important partner is Tell MAMA which supports individuals who have experienced anti-Muslim hate crime. Here, Fiyaz Mughal from Tell MAMA explains more about their work to assist students like Fatima (not her real name).​

In 2016, Fatima was a first-year undergraduate student who was enjoying her first few months of university life. One afternoon, she left her halls of residence to meet friends. Fatima was visibly Muslim and chose to wear a Hijab. 

As she walked down the street, she heard a car driving past her and shouting that she initially assumed was not directed at her. As the car grew nearer the shouts grew louder and Fatima felt an object fly past her and saw a coin hit the footpath in front of her, leaving a mark on the paving stone.

The young men in the car shouted abuse at Fatima. She realised that they had targeted her deliberately and that the coin was meant to have hit her. Instantaneously, she thought about the reason for the attack and the fact that someone simply wanted to harm her because of a part of her identity – the fact that she was a Muslim.

After the incident Fatima contacted the Tell MAMA helpline on the advice of friends who had seen Tell Mama leaflets on campus encouraging individuals experiencing anti-Muslim hatred to report it. Fatima was advised by a caseworker that the material she had provided would be passed onto the police (anonymously if she wanted), and she was informed that what she suffered was criminal in nature. The case worker also explained her rights under the Victim's Code, which was established by the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act (2004). The Tell MAMA caseworker listened to her, helped her pass on evidence to the police and affirmed that she had suffered a potentially serious incident. It also meant that Fatima proactively sought further advice from Tell MAMA when she required some counselling within an Islamic framework.

Fatima's case is one example of the kinds of cases that Tell MAMA works through. We have supported numerous university students and have ensured that they gain access to justice when they have suffered anti-Muslim hatred. The annual reports that we produce provide essential information to universities on the types of anti-Muslim hate crime currently occurring in the UK. For example, most of the victims of anti-Muslim hatred at a street level are visible Muslim females, with the perpetrators mainly being male and between the ages of 15-35. Much of the abuse is heavily gender biased against Muslim females and should also be viewed as male on female anti-Muslim abuse.

Our 2015 annual report also highlights that most of the street-based abuse takes place at bus stops, major rail station hubs and on buses, underlining the importance of local level networks to understanding what is happening off-campus.

We have also heard many cases where people who could have intervened to stop the abuse against a Muslim female simply looked away. Part of the work of Tell MAMA is to support 'Upstander' activity where witnesses can support the victim during or after an incident by simply speaking or engaging with them. Some victims have said that the most hurtful part of being targeted for anti-Muslim hatred has been the fact that no-one asked them how they were or whether they required assistance after the incident. That is why UUK's recommendations on encouraging students to be proactive bystanders is also so important. 

In addition to supporting victims, we also advise victims on their rights when they have reported anti-Muslim hatred to us, or to the police. We have a national working agreement with police forces who share information with us on anti-Muslim hate crimes referred to them. This means that we have the strongest national insight on the anti-Muslim hatred taking place in the UK, the groups that are promoting this hatred and the type and location of incidents.

Tell MAMA also offers a Court Support service: attending court with those who want emotional, moral and practical support. This is important as many find navigating the criminal justice system a daunting prospect.

Tell MAMA has Regional Co-ordinators who can offer advice, support, training and promotional materials so that universities can support students who have suffered anti-Muslim hatred. Regional Co-ordinators have also been tasked with meeting universities and ensuring that partnership work with them can assist the ongoing well-being of students who have suffered anti-Muslim hatred. They can be contacted by e-mailing the Director of Tell MAMA on info@tellmamauk.org

If you suffer anti-Muslim hatred, you can report to Tell MAMA through their website, their helpline – 0800 456 1226, via SMS – 0115 707 0007, Whatsapp – 0734 184 6086 or via Twitter: @tellmamauk or Facebook: TellMAMAUK.

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