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  • Author or Editor: Irene Zempi 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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The chapter sheds light on the link between academic research, policy and practice in terms of offering support to individuals who have been targeted because of their (perceived) Muslim identity. As such, I assess contemporary policy and practice by looking at the effectiveness of criminal justice responses to Islamophobic victimisation within the British context. Correspondingly, there are barriers to the effective delivery of conventional support services, including a lack of understanding and awareness of victims’ distinct cultural norms and religious practices. Unarguably, the lack of appropriate support can add to the injury inflicted on the victim. Moreover, the way in which victims are treated has an impact on the likelihood of crimes being reported in the future. In light of this, I make the case for a more flexible approach to engaging with victims of Islamophobia; one which accommodates their ‘difference’ whilst facilitating greater communication between statutory and voluntary service providers.

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Following the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and 7/7, and more recently the ISIS-directed attacks in Paris and Brussels the religion of Islam is associated with terrorism and the global ‘war on terror’. Muslim women who wear the veil in public are stigmatised as ‘other’ and demonised as ‘dangerous’. The wearing of the veil is understood as a practice synonymous with religious fundamentalism and Islamist extremism. Correspondingly, media discourses and political rhetoric about Islamist extremism are often illustrated by the image of a Muslim woman in veil. The veil is understood as a ‘threat’ to notions of integration and national cohesion, and a visual embodiment of gender oppression and gender inequality. Consequently, veiled Muslim women are vulnerable to hate crime attacks in public. Drawing on Christie’s (1986) concept of the ‘ideal victim’, this chapter considers the implications of the label of ‘undeserving victims’ for veiled Muslim women who have experienced anti-Muslim hate crime. It argues that they are often denied the ‘ideal victim’ identity due to the demonisation and criminalisation of the veil, especially in light of the banning of the veil in European countries such as France and Belgium.

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This article examines the role of researchers’ emotions when researching sensitive topics. Drawing on two different ethnographic research projects, experiences of imprisonment and hate crime victimisation, respectively, we reflect on the important role that our emotions occupied within the research context. Within the framework of sociology of emotions, we discuss our subjective experiences of qualitative research with prisoners and victims of hate crime. We actively celebrate the work by and offer an extended discussion on the value of using emotions as important methodological tools that should be used as part of the methodological and analytical process. We employ the concept of the ‘emotional turn’ to emphasise the importance of researcher emotions in ethnographic work, and the value of those emotions in guiding methodological and ethical decision making. Specifically, we use envy, guilt and shame – three key emotions that we both experienced and utilised throughout our independently conducted research projects – to illustrate how and why emotions are important for guiding decision making in research. The particular emotions centred here (envy, guilt, and shame) are not tied to hard-to-reach groups or sensitive topics; rather, emotionally engaged research is important as all researchers need to understand how their emotions could/should shape their methodological choices. The article concludes by assessing the value and challenges of embracing the emotional turn, and offers some methodological guidance for future researchers. Within this we raise important questions about the universality of emotions experienced during research. We tentatively conclude that research work does trigger shared emotive responses.

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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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