'Significant spike' in Islamophobia after Boris Johnson's letterbox remarks

An anti-Boris Johnson protest in Russell Square, London on the day he became prime minister. (Steve Parsons/PA)

An anti-Boris Johnson protest in Russell Square, London on the day he became prime minister. (Steve Parsons/PA)

PA Wire/PA Images

Boris Johnson's comparison of women in burkas to letterboxes led to a 'significant spike' in Islamophobic incidents, an anti-racism organisation has claimed.

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Tell MAMA said there was a 375% increase in anti-Muslim incidents from the week before Johnson made the comments to the week after.

In the week following the publication of the prime minister's controversial Telegraph column in which he compared veiled Muslim women to "letterboxes", 38 incidents were reported to police and Tell MAMA.

Of those incidents, 22 involved "visibly Muslim women who wore the face veil", according to the organisation.

"Between August 5 and August 29, 42% of the street-based incidents reported to Tell MAMA directly referenced Boris Johnson and/or the language used in his column," the organisation said.

In his Telegraph article in August 2018, Johnson said full-face veils should not be banned, but it was "absolutely ridiculous" women chose to "go around looking like letterboxes". He also compared them to "bank robbers".

Johnson later defended his words, insisting the backlash against them was nothing more than "confected indignation" at his "strong views" on Brexit.

In its publication of statistics on Islamophobic incidents for 2018, Tell MAMA said there was also a "significant spike" in activity after "Punish a Muslim Day" letters were sent to Islamic households, organisations and places of work.

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The letters, which sought to insight violence against Muslims, led to reports of 37 public incidents which directly referenced them.

After the letters were sent there was a period of "heightened tensions, fears, and anxieties around the proposed day", the organisation added.

Tell MAMA said they recorded 2,963 anti-Muslim hate incidents in 2018, which includes reports made to both the organisation and the police.

The organisation said there had been an 11% reduction in reports of anti-Muslim incidents carried out in public from 2017.

This could be because "there were four major terrorist attacks in the United Kingdom in 2017, which led to sharp spikes of reported anti-Muslim hate incidents to Tell MAMA", it said.

Last year, the majority of victims of Islamophobia were female (57%) and the majority of perpetrators were male (73%), its report said.

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."

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