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Researcher wore veil for four weeks


research, Muslim, veil, abuse, threats, bystanders must helpShe suffered name-calling, swearing, threats of physical violence and derogatory forms of humour.

Last week Birmingham City University criminologist Dr Imran Awan and Dr Irene Zempi, lecturer in Criminology at Nottingham Trent University, presented research in Parliament highlighting their research into Islamophobic victimisation.

Speaking before the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Islamophobia on 12 October, as part of Hate Crime Awareness Week, Dr Awan and Dr Zempi shared the findings of their most recent research which saw the researchers adopting identifiable Muslim identities in Birmingham and Leicester, before the UK voted to leave the EU in June 2016.

Speaking to the Conversation, Zempi explained that she is an Orthodox Christian who for her PhD research examined the experiences of veiled Muslim women who had been victims of Islamophobia in public spaces.

She carried out 60 individual and 20 group interviews with veiled Muslim women – and then some of the participants suggested she wear the veil in order to see for herself the level of abuse and hostility that they suffered on a daily basis.

So she decided to wear the veil for four weeks as part of her daily routine in public places in Leicester.

She experienced name-calling, swearing, threats of physical violence and derogatory forms of humour.

Underlying all these forms of verbal abuse was a clear sense of anti-Muslim hatred and hostility, made apparent through the language used by the perpetrators.

Typical examples of name-calling included “Muslim terrorist”, “suicide bomber” and “you lot are terrorists”, indicating that the perpetrators perceived veiled Muslim women as a security or terrorist threat.

The comments and gestures that perpetrators made were often threatening.

On one occasion, she was walking on the street in Leicester when a white man came up close and started making explosion sounds at her. He asked her: “How many people have you lot killed in the name of Islam?”

She also experienced verbal and non-verbal sexual harassment in public. For example, unknown men on the street made sexual comments, often followed by sexual noises. In some cases, these individuals shouted: “Take it off!”

Awan, who was also threatened and insulted, and Zempi have made a number of new recommendations in a short briefing about their research, starting with the need for the public to intervene and assist victims of anti-Muslim hate crime.

During their experiment they both saw bystanders who saw them being harassed but did not intervene.

Victims of such hate crimes do not necessarily want physical action – just a phone call to inform the police what they have witnessed.

That research was carried out before the EU referendum.

Evidence shows that hate crime surged in the UK in the weeks after the EU referendum vote, and still remains at significantly higher levels than a year ago.

Reports of hate crime have risen 58 per cent in the aftermath of the EU referendum vote, according to the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC).

Police have linked the spike in hate crime incidents immediately after the June referendum directly to the Brexit vote, saying people had taken the vote to leave the EU as a ‘licence’ to behave in a racist or discriminatory way.

The public needs to intervene and assist victims of anti-Muslim hate crime.

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