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  • Author or Editor: Imran Awan x
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Lived experiences of online and offline victimisation
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Islamophobia examines the online and offline experiences of hate crime against Muslims, and the impact upon victims, their families and wider communities. Based on the first national hate crime study to examine the nature, extent and determinants of Muslim victims of hate crime in the virtual and physical worlds, it highlights the multidimensional relationship between online and offline anti-Muslim attacks, especially in a global context. It includes the voices of victims themselves which leads to a more nuanced understanding of anti-Muslim hate crime and prevention of future anti-Muslim hate crime as well as strategies for future prevention.

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This chapter defines Islamophobia both historically and in a contemporary context. It argues that contemporary Islamophobia is a reflection of a historical anti-Muslim phenomenon which was constructed in colonial times but which has increased significantly in recent times, creating a deeper resentment, hostility and fear of Islam and of Muslims than existed before. The chapter offers an outline of empirical research with respect to online and offline Islamophobia. Additionally, this chapter situates the topic within wider debates surrounding hate crime more generally.

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This chapter presents the methodology of this study and the rationale for using qualitative interviewing as the preferred approach. It discusses the practicalities of the research methodology, including the processes of developing an interview framework, engaging participants and analysing research material using Grounded Theory. This is followed by a discussion of the similarities and differences between the researchers and the researched, which are framed by notions of insider/outsider status. In this regard, we reflect upon how our positionality influenced the research process.

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This chapter examines the factors that determine the prevalence and severity of Islamophobia, namely ‘trigger’ events of local, national and international significance. Correspondingly, participants in this study reported that the prevalence of both online and offline Islamophobia increased following recent high-profile terrorist attacks around the world such as Sydney, the attacks in Paris, Copenhagen and Tunisia. In addition, national scandals such as the grooming of young girls in Rotherham by groups of Pakistani men and the alleged ‘Trojan Horse’ scandal in Birmingham framed as a ‘jihadist plot’ to take over schools, were also highlighted as ‘trigger’ events. The visibility and intersectionality of victims’ identities is also discussed.

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This chapter reveals the nature of Islamophobia targeted towards ‘visible’ Muslims both online and offline. The chapter highlights that this victimisation is likely to be experienced as a continuing process, rather than as a single incident occurring online or offline, and reflects upon the tendency of victims not to report such incidents to the police. Participants highlighted that the visibility of their Muslim identity was key to being identified as Muslims, and thus triggering online and/or offline Islamophobic attacks. Both male and female victims remained ‘invisible’ in the criminal justice system, especially in relation to experiences of online hate.

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This chapter examines the implications of online/offline Islamophobia for victims including increased feelings of vulnerability, fear and insecurity. Participants also suffered a range of psychological and emotional responses such as low confidence, depression and anxiety. Additionally, participants highlighted the relationship between online and offline Islamophobia, and described living in fear because of the possibility of online threats materialising in the ‘real world’. Many participants reported taking steps to become less ‘visible’ for example by taking the headscarf or face veil off for women and shaving their beards for men.

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This chapter offers recommendations for preventing and responding to online and offline Islamophobia, based on the views and suggestions of the participants. Recommendations included better media training in order to report stories about Muslims and Islam fairly; witnesses intervening (where possible and safe) to protect, assist victims of Islamophobia and inform the police; more information in the form of workshops, advertisements, posters, flyers, reports promoted in mosques, community centres, businesses, shops, cafes and schools; social media companies making their systems of reporting hate crime more user friendly; diversity in the criminal justice system.

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