Monday, April 19News For London

Anti-racism group highlights rise in online Islamophobia

An anti-racism group has called on the European Parliament to tackle anti-Muslim posts and comments on social media. The European Network Against Racism (ENAR) warned that tackling Islamophobia is as urgent as fighting anti-Semitism on the internet.  Reporter: Hussein Abdel Fattah. Sub Editor: Hayley Daen.

Muslims leaving friday prayers in Regents Park mosque, London. By Hussein Abdel Fattah.
Muslims leaving Friday prayers in Regent’s Park mosque, London. By Hussein Abdel Fattah.

Although the Muslim community in London condemned the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris and the actions of Mohammed Emwazi (identified as ‘Jihadi John’), increasingly Muslims are on the receiving end of online abuse.

Anti-racism groups have said that Facebook and Twitter are refusing to take down hundreds of inflammatory Islamophobic postings from across their sites despite being alerted to the content.

Claire Fernandez, deputy director of the (ENAR), stated in a letter to the European Parliament that there is evidence of discrimination and stigmatisation of Muslims as “anti-Muslim sentiments and incidents are on the rise in Europe, and Muslim communities fear retaliation”.

She adds: “While anti-Semitism and Islamophobia each have their specificities and different historical sources, they can sometimes be quite similar”.

The calls come after a similar an inquiry last month recognized an increase in anti-Semitic behaviour on social media, particularly in the period following the Israeli-Gaza conflict in summer 2014. It called for “urgent action from government, police, prosecution services, and the Jewish community to tackle a disturbing rise in anti-Semitism in the UK”.

Ayaz Zuberi, spokesperson for the Islamic Cultural Centre in London, says: “It is very important that everyone should be treated justly and with the same rights”

Zuberi points out that it is not just Muslims who are the receivers of electronic hate crime but many sections of society, but has urged Muslims in London  “to lead by example with righteous character is the best thing that Muslims can do right now”.

This is an issue that concerns students in London. Mostafa Atef, a Muslim political science student, says Islamophobia on the internet should be tackled as much as anti-Semitism. “I guess it is a bit unfair, no one accepts hate speech against Jews but also hostile speech against Islam should be equally condemned.” Atef adds: “I understand many people misunderstand our religion because what is happening, ISIL for example, but also many Muslims are victims of hate here and around the world”.

Sheikh Aly of the  Islamic Centre in London also calls for action against Islamophobia.

Regents Park mosque, London. By Hussein Abdel Fattah.
Regent’s Park mosque, London. By Hussein Abdel Fattah.

“We experienced many problems and incidents since September 11th attack in 2001 and later after the 7.7 bombings here in London, but now it is for the first time, very obvious online,” says Aly.

He continues: “I see many ugly posts on Facebook and Twitter, even some of the people I follow are posting that Muslims are murderers and terrorist, this is sad” Al Molla adds. This report by the Independent says that

Leaving Friday prayers in Regent’s Park mosque, Latif Abdo, 44, a Pakistani born British resident says he is offended by anti-Islamic articles and comments on Facebook. He says: “I am hurt to see bad things said on Muslims and prophet Mohamed on the internet, the government should not favour Jews in fighting against racism.”

Samer, a young British Muslim, says: “There should be a sort of software or application to automatically block content that offends Muslims.”

But will that limit freedom of speech online? Ahmed Ahmed, another prayer in Regent’s Park mosque says: “I do not want to block this content because Islam is strong and rising, we should ignore offences and God only judges in the end.”