European Islamophobia Report – UK, 2015

Arzu overviews events relating to Islamophobia in the UK in 2016 for SETA.

Read the report (p550 onwards) here.

Executive Summary

The UK faced a difficult year, marked by what many perceived as a downward turn in race relations, seeing in particular, a demonstrable rise in Islamophobia.The general election in May saw the Conservative Party returned with a majority (it had previously been in government in a coalition with the Liberal Democrats). The party had inter alia campaigned on a platform of securitisation and anti-immigration. Events during the year that had impact on the environment of hatred included terror related incidents: the attacks on the Charlie Hebdo office, and the attacks in Paris in November; the attacks on British tourists in Tunisia and various Daesh / ISIL related events. The reportage, opinions from the commentariat and political elites, and policy related announcements following these events contributed to an anti-Muslim climate. Other issues that raised Islamophobia or intersected with its rise included the so-called migrant crisis, the continued fall-out from the Trojan Horse affair and the rise of Daesh/ ISIL. The legal climate was marked by the implementation of the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act, which made it a statutory requirement for public sector workers, e.g. doctors and teachers, to refer people they thought to be extremists to the authorities. This requirement made the previous policy of PREVENT, introduced in 2005, law. With no concrete definition of extremism, referrals have been reported as being based on misconceptions and prejudices. Media representation of Muslims continued to be problematic, with continued conflation of Islam, Muslims and terrorism, misogyny, sexual deviancy and disloyalty. In order to deal with the repercussions of increased Islamophobia a number of civil society initiatives were undertaken, including campaigns to end anti-terror laws, interfaith initiatives and the building of community alliances.


Arzu Merali is a writer and researcher based in London, UK. She is one of the founders of Islamic Human Rights Commission (an NGO with consultative status with the United Nations, set up in 1997) and heads its research section. She has authored various academic and journalistic articles, reports and books on human rights and social justice issues, including and especially Islamophobia. Her latest publications include Environment of Hate: The New Normal for Muslims in the UK (2015) with Saied R. Ameli and ‘La cooptación del feminismo islámico en el euro-islam y La pérdida de La Liberación’ in Tabula Rasa. No.21: 91-109, Julio-Diciembre. She has presented her work at various fora including the United Nations. Merali is a permanent faculty member of the Critical Muslim Studies: Decolonial Struggles and Liberation Theologies summer school. She focuses on Islamic Feminsim, human rights and grammars of human dignity. Arzu Merali, MA Cantab. and Kent,