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‘I’m too scared to leave my house’: Muslim fears as Islamophobic incidents skyrocket by 365%

Islamophobia Response Unit (IRU) data shows an increase in incidents since Hamas’s 7 October attack and Israel’s subsequent military action

Athena Stavrou
Monday 04 March 2024 09:54 GMT
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Sadiq Khan responds to Lee Anderson's remarks

Muslims in Britain say they are too scared to leave their homes after dark, as new figures show the number of Islamophobic incidents has skyrocketed since the 7 October attack on Israel by Hamas.

London charity Islamophobia Response Unit (IRU) says many of the incidents have involved people being targeted over their support for Palestine, as the Israel-Hamas war continues to rage.

Muslims who have spoken to The Independent said they have had bricks thrown through their windows for displaying the Palestinian flag, while one teenager said he was questioned by his teachers after he displayed a Palestinian badge at school.

As the war in Gaza continues to rage, with airstrikes causing destruction such as this in Rafah, Muslims in Britain say they have seen a rise in Islamophobia (AP)

IRU says it saw a 365 per cent increase in reports of Islamophobia in October, following Hamas’s deadly attacks in Israel that left more than 1,200 people dead. Britain’s Jewish community suffered a surge in antisemitic incidents, with the Community Security Trust charity revealing earlier this month it had seen a record number in 2023, including 2,699 since 7 October.

Have you been affected by this? Email athena.stavrou@independent.co.uk

“Since October 2023 IRU has seen a sustained increase in reports to the unit,” said IRU CEO Majid Iqbal. “It is clear that this is now developing into a long-term trend and is having a profound impact on those affected by it. IRU calls on the press and politicians to not demonise legitimate Palestinian activism and, by extension, British Muslims, to avoid feeding into the serious societal problem of Islamophobia.”

The figures come after a report earlier this week from Tell Mama – another body that records anti-Muslim hate incidents – which said there were 2,010 incidents between 7 October and 7 February, more than triple the 600 reported during the same period the year before.

A doctor says he had a rock thrown through the window of his home in Manchester after displaying a Palestinian flag (Supplied)

And both sets of figures have come in the same week Tory MP Lee Anderson was suspended by the Conservative Party, following comments about London mayor Sadiq Khan that have been widely condemned as Islamophobic.

Among the cases reported to IRU was that of a 17-year-old boy who said he was interrogated by teachers about his faith and “his understanding of Hamas” after he attached a Palestine badge to his school bag. The Year 13 student from London said he felt targeted because he was Muslim, which triggered an anxiety attack and led to exam failure.

“The numerous instances of being pulled out whilst studying to remove my badge made me feel like I was targeted because I was a Muslim, which made me feel like I was doing something wrong,” he said. “This feeling of being targeted intensified following the intimidating interrogation, which I was subjected to.”

A teenager in London says he was grilled by his teachers over a ‘Free Palestine’ badge on his school bag (Supplied)

The student was expecting to discuss his mental health during a safeguarding meeting with two teachers, but says he was instead met with questions such as, ‘Are you a Muslim?’, ‘Do you go to a mosque”, and “Do you have a British passport”. He claims he was “interrogated” on his understanding of Hamas.

In a separate incident reported to the IRU, a 32-year-old doctor, who wished to remain anonymous, said he has been too scared to leave his home following an attack he believes stemmed from his support for Palestine.

On 5 February, the man was awoken by a loud bang and found a large rock had been smashed through a window of his home in Manchester that was displaying a Palestinian flag. The incident left him unable to sleep and forced him to take two weeks off work due to stress.

“This event has been extremely traumatic and has had a significant impact on my wellbeing,” he told The Independent. “I am not sleeping; I just pace around until 4 or 5am because I am too scared to sleep in the property. I no longer leave the house after sunset, as I am too frightened.

“I will soon be returning to work after two weeks off sick with stress but I am very concerned about the impact this event will have on my professional performance as a doctor. I do not know how I can work with patients whilst I am this sleep-deprived.”

If you have been a victim of Islamophobia you can report it to the IRU by emailing info@theiru.org.uk or calling 020 3904 6555.

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