Tell Mama UK
|Tell MAMA (Measuring Anti-Muslim Attacks)|
|Mission statement||"to ensure that anti-Muslim incidents and attacks in the UK are mapped, measured and recorded, and support provided for victims."|
|Type of project||Anti-Muslim hate monitor|
|Established||21 February 2012|
Tell MAMA (Measuring Anti-Muslim Attacks) is a national project which records and measures anti-Muslim incidents in the United Kingdom. It is closely modelled on the Jewish Community Security Trust (CST) and like the CST it also provides support for victims, working closely with organisations such as Victim Support.
Tell MAMA was launched on 21 February 2012 by Eric Pickles MP, Secretary of State for the Department for Communities and Local Government and is co-ordinated by the interfaith organisation Faith Matters. Both groups were founded by social entrepreneur Fiyaz Mughal OBE, a former adviser to the Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Nick Clegg, on Interfaith and Preventing Radicalisation and Extremism. The organisation's statistics have been a subject of debate.
Journalist Andrew Gilligan has made claims that Government funding was later withdrawn following concern about the organisation's data collection. (See Controversies below)
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By end of November 2013, the organisation had recorded 1,432 cases of abuse since its founding in February 2012. On 30 January 2014 the organisation released a graphic highlighting details of mosque attacks it had recorded between January 2012 to August 2013, including three bombings which took place in June and July 2013 (connected to a self-confessed white supremacist, Pavlo Lapshyn).
A total of 632 incidents were recorded in its first year of operation. One in three attackers reported to the project had links to far-right organisations. Of physical incidents reported in its first year, Tell MAMA boss Fiyaz Mughal said on BBC Sunday Morning Live that 70% were against hijab or niqab-wearing women and the majority of attackers were white males, aged 20–50. In June 2013 the findings were analysed and verified by a team of academics at Teesside University, revealing that English Defence League (EDL) figures were linked to one-third of online incidents; the data said that almost two out of every three incidents were not reported to police.
Mughal, interviewed on Press TV in 2012, and writing for Hope not Hate, claimed that such incidents were becoming more violent and aggressive. Mughal also called on the Commonwealth of Nations to do more to combat Islamophobia.
Following the murder of British soldier Lee Rigby by two Muslim extremists in Woolwich, south London, on 22 May 2013, Tell MAMA recorded 83 incidents in 24 hours, and 212 over the week. During the same period, the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) recorded a 'spike' of 136 anti-Muslim incidents which were directly reported to its True Vision hate crime reporting service.
As of October 2013, Tell MAMA had recorded 35 attacks against mosques since the Woolwich incident, most taking place before August: most cases involved graffiti, though others involved arson, the sending of offensive DVDs, petrol bombs, smoke bombs, a suspected nail bomb, a pig's head being placed on the steps of a mosque, threats and abuse of worshippers.
Reception from British Muslims
Inayat Bunglawala, founder and chair of Muslims4UK and a former media secretary at the Muslim Council of Britain, questioned Tell MAMA's links to the CST, which he linked to Zionism and neoconservatism. Former Hizb ut-Tahrir extremist, and now Senior Fellow at ICSR, King's College London, Shiraz Maher writing in The Jewish Chronicle has said that:
- "Tell Mama is new and, though gauche in many respects, it is badly needed. It was established by Fiyaz Mughal, who led the “Muslims Against antisemitism” campaign. Unlike most Muslim groups, Tell Mama also records intra-Muslim sectarian attacks. More importantly, it replaces the Muslim Safety Forum, an extremist group dominated by Islamists who support Hamas."
Andrew Gilligan's Sunday Telegraph piece
Andrew Gilligan in two Sunday Telegraph articles (1 June 2013 and 9 June 2013) wrote that 57% of incidents recorded by Tell MAMA in the week after the Woolwich murder took place online. He said other incidents – with the exception of two mosque attacks (one in Grimsby, the other in Essex) – were "relatively minor, such as window-breaking or graffiti". Seventeen incidents involved assault on a person, although 11 of those were attempts to remove Islamic dress and none required medical treatment. According to Gilligan, Cressida Dick of the Metropolitan Police said that her force, which is one of the only forces which monitors anti-Muslim incidents, had seen fewer anti-Muslim incidents than after the 7 July bombings in 2005.
Gilligan wrote that the group had had its government funding axed after concerns were raised about its methods by Don Foster, the Minister for Communities. Gilligan's report said that the decision was made before the Woolwich attack and was based on perceived discrepancies between the group’s statistics and ACPO and police records. Gilligan said "hate crime in mainly Muslim areas has fallen in the past 10 years". Gilligan also mentioned two cases in mid-May, before the Woolwich incident, where Tell MAMA had "been using its budget to threaten members of the public with libel actions for criticising it on Twitter": one was against a Jewish activist who criticised the group in Twitter postings. Tell MAMA also threatened action against Atma Singh, a former race adviser to the then Labour Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, after he tweeted that the organisation "gives a platform to Islamists".
Tell MAMA response
The organisation responded to Gilligan's criticism by stating that online attacks were worth recording and had links to real-world incidents and wider communal tensions. It produced a rebuttal to the rest of Gilligan's main accusations. On funding, it said that Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg confirmed in November 2012 that the project's funding of £214,000 was for one year only. Prime Minister David Cameron, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles, and Communities Minister Baroness Warsi have spoken in support of Tell MAMA post-Woolwich and a subsequent rise in anti-Muslim attacks and incidents.
Government advisor and academic expert on Islamophobia, Dr Chris Allen, suggested that there was likely to be significant under-reporting of anti-Muslim incidents, based on a large 2009 EU-wide survey. Expert on far-right politics, Dr Matthew Feldman of Teesside University, contended that the nature of the data collected by hate-monitoring projects naturally differs to that collected by police, due to the nature of self-reporting.
A BBC News report said that the data is somewhat "patchy" but noted a number of "very serious" incidents which took place in the summer of 2013, including a number of attempts to set fire to Islamic schools and mosques. It also noted that Tell MAMA "has produced an online map of alleged attacks".
Tell MAMA complained to the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) about Gilligan's report in The Daily Telegraph but the PCC found that "reporting that Mughal exaggerated the prevalence of anti-Muslim attacks, that he had not had his funding renewed, and that DCLG officials had expressed concern about his methods, was “not inaccurate.”"
- "...you frequently find that Muslim groups like Tell Mama get taxpayers' money (though, in its case, this is now coming to an end)...And you notice that many bigwigs in Muslim groups are decorated with public honours. Fiyaz Mughal, for example, who runs Tell Mama, has an OBE. Obviously it would be half-laughable, half-disgusting if activists of the EDL were honoured in this way: yet they are, in fact, less extreme than some of those Muslims who are."
Writing in the New Statesman magazine, academic Matthew Goodwin, of Nottingham University and an expert on British far-right politics, criticised both Charles Moore and Andrew Gilligan, who he said were "proved wrong" in trying to "dismiss a documented rise in attacks against Muslims following the [Woolwich] attack."
Sadiq Khan and Mohammed Amin response
Criticising the approaches of Gilligan and Moore, senior Labour frontbench MP Sadiq Khan, said:
- "For decades, the British Jewish community has had to contend with the belittling of anti-Semitic attacks, whether they be on headstones in cemeteries or to Synagogues or schools. While we cannot be complacent, there is, rightly, a zero tolerance to anti-Semitism whether it be oral, viral or physical. Would we be comfortable with a respected journalist writing about the Community Security Trust the way Tell Mama has been written about? Or aspersions being cast on a politician due to their Jewish faith? Would we accept the Jewish community being talked about the way the Muslim community are? The piece would be roundly criticised, and rightly so."
- "Given that Tell MAMA has adopted the methodology of the CST; and that the pattern of incidents that it is reporting is similar to the patterns reported by the CST – with incidents ranging from verbal abuse, internet abuse, to relatively rare cases of extreme violence – will these journalists be attacking the CST’s next report the same way? Because, as far as I can see, there is little difference between the evils of anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim hatred, or the way in which both bodies which monitor such hatred function."
Patrons of the Tell MAMA project include: Jonathan Bloch, gay rights and human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, Mohammed Amin, Lord Sheikh, Sir Trevor Chinn, Amin Mawji, Sally Becker, Kristiane Backer, the Reverend Mark Oakley, and Imaan (an LGBT Muslim support group).
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