Boris Johnson Burqa comments “led to surge in anti-Muslim attacks” new study finds

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Boris Johnson’s racist comments about Muslim women who wear the Burqa “led to a surge in anti-Muslim attacks”


Watchdog, Tell MAMA said there was a 375% week-on-week increase after the Prime Minister compared women who wear a full face veil to “letterboxes” and “bank robbers” in a newspaper column.

In the newly released study, the organisation says in the week after Johnson’s comments, 38 violent attacks with Islamophobic motives were reported to the police, and of those, 22 involved “visibly Muslim women who wore the face veil”.

The vast majority of violent attacks against Muslims in the UK are committed by adult males against Muslim females.

Mr Johnson had called the face coverings “oppressive” in a controversial article for the Telegraph in August 2018.

He said it was “absolutely ridiculous” women chose to “go around looking like letterboxes”.

After heavy criticism from senior Tories and demands for an apology from the-then party chairman, Brandon Lewis, the PM insisted the backlash was nothing more than “confected indignation”.

Boris refused to apologies.

TELL MAMA have now said between August 5 and August 29 last year 42% of the street-based incidents reported to them directly referenced Johnson and the language used in his column.

42% of racist attacks between 5 August 2018 and 29 August 2018 reported to TELL MAMA referenced Boris and his comments. 

The statistics come from its report on Islamophobia in 2018, which also says there was rise in activity after the ‘Punish a Muslim Day’ letters inciting violence were sent out.

Overall they recorded 2,963 anti-Muslim hate incidents in 2018, saying there had been an 11% reduction in incidents carried out in public from 2017.

Although the overall figure in 2018 was lower than previous years, the extremity of the attacks seems to have increased, in particular in the immediate aftermath of politicians’ statements and policy changes such as the Brexit vote in 2016 which saw anti-Muslim hate crime surge by over 700% in the following week. Despite the fact that EU membership does not notably contribute to the number of Muslims in the UK.

A spokesperson for Tell Mama said: “The rising instances of discrimination, hate speech, and anti-Muslim literature indicate that a more general intolerance and hatred is growing.

“These typologies are seldom prosecutable by law and have proven more difficult to achieve satisfactory outcomes and solutions for victims.”

In response to the report the Communities Secretary, Robert Jenrick said:

“I am utterly appalled by hatred aimed at Muslims in Britain or at those of any faith, and I am determined to tackle it. We have put millions into protecting all places of worship and we continue to fund education courses to tackle this scourge at its root. While it is welcome to see that reported incidents of abuse online and on our streets has fallen, it’s clear that there is more to do. Muslims, and people of all faiths, must feel safe in Britain. As Communities Secretary, I will do everything in my power to stamp out hatred in all its forms, wherever it appears.”

Muslims in the UK are statistically more likely to secure higher grades in education but less likely to secure a top job. Muslims with identical education and experience in the same job role as non Muslims are also more likely to be paid significantly less.

Last month the UK Home Office came under fire after its own Citizen’s Advice Bureau published two different information leaflets about finding work. One for non-Muslims and one for Muslims. The one aimed at BAEM and Muslim people called the minority groups a surge of insults calling directly or insinuating that Muslims were uneducated, primitive and hampered by domestic problems. The careers advised for BAEM and Muslims were entry level jobs compared to much higher paying jobs advised for white non-Muslims.

When Al-Sahawat Times asked 200 people from across the UK to estimate what percentage of the UK’s population was Muslim the mean response was 24% with the total range being: 15% to 35%. Significantly higher than the reality. The same misconception is common across much of Europe.

Percentage of global population that is Muslim: ~25% (roughly the same as christianity)

Percentage of EU population that is Muslim: ~ 4-6%

Percentage of UK population that is Muslim: ~ 4% (Including London) (Scotland: 1% Wales: 1%)

Percentage of London population that is Muslim: ~ 12.4%


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About the Author

Omar Bishara
Journalist, Broadcast News Correspondent and Photojournalist

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