Non-Muslim men in the United Kingdom who “look Muslim” because of their skin colour or beards have been targets of Islamophobic incidents, research revealed.
Participants of the survey described verbal, physical and emotional abuse – from animal excrements being pushed through mailboxes, vandalism at workplace to being called a terrorist or linked to Islamic State.
The research also found increase in hostility around European Union referendum and terror attacks across UK.
Presented at the House of Commons during Hate Crime Awareness Week, Dr Imran Awan and Dr Irene Zempi argued that the Islamophobic abuse suffered by non-Muslim men because of their ‘looks’ remained undocumented in official statistics and academic researches.
“Although it’s a case of mistaken identity, Islamophobic abuse should not be happening in the first place,” Dr Awan, Associate Professor of Criminology at Birmingham City University, told The Independent, adding that the victims were targeted “based on prejudice and stereotypes.”
For the study, 20 non-Muslim men belong to different religions and ethnicities, aged between 19 and 59 were interviewed. Their anonymity was maintained to avoid identification.
Where one interviewee talked of receiving message reading: “Vote out, Kick out the Muslims” on social media, another was told after Brexit that “Today is the day we get rid of the likes of you.” Others noticed increase in harassment after terror attacks across the world. “Every time there’s a major terrorism incident there’s a sharp rise in hate directed at me and my family,” one participant told the researchers.
“Sadly the overall situation is deteriorating. Islamophobia is having an increasing impact on the lives of Asian men who look Muslim. The hatred that lies behind Islamophobia is spreading,” added another.
One participant said: “It’s happened to me ever since I grew a beard. I’m not a Muslim but people stare at me because they think I am. After the Woolwich terrorist attack, people kept giving me bad looks.”
“You’ve killed innocent people, go back to Syria, you ISIS terrorist,” another interviewee was told.
Many of the participants reported suffering from anxiety, depression and physical illness as a consequent of the abuse. “We live in fear every day,” one person said. “We face abuse and intimidation daily but we should not have to endure this abuse.”
The victims also spoke about feeling isolated and lonely after being abused in public and no one coming to help.
Awan and Zempri recommended public awareness campaigns on reporting hate crimes and training camps to teach bystanders how to respond if they spot one.
The research is backed by figures released by UK Home office showing a spike in hate crimes in the past year. Some believe US President Donald Trump’s succession to power may have encouraged anti-Muslim sentiments.
“I’ve noticed that abuse has increased on social media after Trump coming into power,” one said. “I’m on a lot of sites having discussions with people, and I find that racism and Islamophobia are very prevalent. Trump’s views are very extreme, like banning Muslims to enter US. You could not make this up five years ago.”
“Trump really changed everything, didn’t he? He is so blatantly racist and anti-Muslim that he changed the climate completely,” said another.
This article originally appeared on The Independent.