‘You all look the same’: non-Muslim men targeted in Islamophobic hate crime because of their appearance


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Men with beards have been called terrorists.
via shutterstock.com

Imran Awan, Birmingham City University and Irene Zempi, Nottingham Trent University

There has been a 29% rise in recorded hate crimes in the UK in the past year according to new figures released by the Home Office, which also showed a spike in offences following the EU referendum.

The consequences of hate crime are widespread. While Muslims in Britain are increasingly subject to Islamophobia, some non-Muslims are also being targeted because they are perceived to be Muslim.

In new research presented to the All-Party Parliamentary Group on British Muslims we looked at the experiences of non-Muslim men who reported being the target of Islamophobic hate crime.

We interviewed 20 non-Muslim men of different ages, race and religion, based in the UK. Our group included Sikhs, Christians, Hindus and atheists. Although their experiences were all different, they believed that their skin colour, their beard or turban meant that they were perceived to be Muslim – and targeted for it. We decided to only interview men in this study because we understand from our community work that men are more likely than women to be victims of Islamophobia due to mistaken identity.

Our findings backed up our previous research showing that a spike in hate crime is often triggered by a particular event. The men we interviewed, whose names we have anonymised here to protect their identities, described how they felt “vulnerable” and “isolated” after the EU referendum. Vinesh, a 32-year old, Indian British Hindu, told us:

People have been calling me names on Twitter like ‘You’re a p**i c**t’. I have also been threatened on Facebook like ‘Today is the day we get rid of the likes of you!’ I feared for my safety when I read this.

Some of the men noted how terrorist attacks including those in Manchester and London also triggered more Islamophobia. Others also noted how the Trump administration and its stance towards Muslims had promoted anti-Muslim sentiments globally.

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In some cases, hate crimes are targeted at people’s homes or workplaces, with property damaged with Islamophobic graffiti because the perpetrators believe the victims are Muslim. In a recent case in Liverpool, “Allar Akbar” (sic) was painted on a Hindu family’s future home.

One 37-year-old man, called Paul, a white British atheist who is perceived to be a convert to Islam due to his beard, told us how he had been targeted:

I live on a rough estate. I had dog excrement shoved through the mailbox. They also threw paint over my door.

Nobody stepped in to help

Some of those we interviewed felt that their beard was a key aspect of why they were being targeted for looking Muslim. One 19-year-old, called Cameron, who is black British, said:

It’s happened to me ever since I grew a beard. I’m not a Muslim but people stare at me because they think I am.

Many of those we interviewed reported that they suffered anxiety, depression, physical illness, loss of income and employment as a result of being targeted. Raj, a 39-year-old British Indian, told us:

We live in fear every day. We face abuse and intimidation daily but we should not have to endure this abuse.

Such feelings of insecurity and isolation were exacerbated by the fact that these hate incidents usually took place in public places in front of passers-by who didn’t intervene to help. Mark, who is white and Christian and perceived to be Muslim due to his beard and Mediterranean complexion, said:

I was verbally abused by another passenger on the bus who branded me an ‘ISIS terrorist’ while passengers looked on without intervening. In another incident, I had ‘Brexit’ yelled in my face … I feel very lonely. No one has come to my assistance or even consoled me.

Identity questioned

The men we interviewed constantly felt the need to prove their identity, and differentiate themselves from Muslims in an attempt to prevent future victimisation. Many described it as emotionally draining. Samuel, a 58-year-old black British Christian, said:

My identity is always questioned because I look like a Muslim. It does make me feel low but I got used to it. As a black man with a beard you always get associated as being a Muslim terrorist.

The men we interviewed said they wanted much more public awareness about hate crimes and better police recording of these kind of offences. They also called for training for bystanders and people such as teachers who may need to deal with more of these situations. They also thought that an app, through which all types of hate crime could be reported in real time, could offer support for victims.

The ConversationThe rise in Islamophobic hate crime has made many Muslims live in fear. But this kind of hatred is pervasive, and can affect anyone perceived to be Muslim. “You all look the same”, one man was told after explaining that he wasn’t Muslim to somebody who abused him on the train. British society needs to get a better grip on understanding this often “invisible” form of hate crime and what to do about it.

Imran Awan, Associate Professor and Deputy Director of the Centre for Applied Criminology, Birmingham City University and Irene Zempi, Director of the Nottingham Centre for Bias, Prejudice & Hate Crime, Nottingham Trent University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

PS
Hate crimes against disabled children, however, are also on the rise in Britain. – AS

The many looks of me

They’re only looks, but people attribute way too much importance to them. It’s a fascinating – and also disappointing – topic, though, the way we are all influenced by outward appearances.

Look at these. Most of these photos are recent (2009-2017); only four are older (three from the 1990s and one from 2003). In one of these photos, I had just cried. Can you spot it?  Most people like this photo a lot, though. There is one other photo that I took 12 hours earlier. A lot of people like that one too. When you’re done looking, go read the previous post!

Now go read the previous post!

 

What you look like matters – but should it?

What our faces can tell other people about the state of our health

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Glowing with health.
Shutterstock/Luba V Nel

Alex Jones, Swansea University

Our facial appearance influences how we feel about ourselves – and other people’s faces influence who we choose to approach or avoid and who we’d like to form romantic relationships with. At a glance, a face reveals a wealth of information about how we are feeling, or the kinds of behaviours we might be about to engage in – but what does it say about us when we aren’t expressing emotion? As it turns out, it’s more than you could imagine.

Over the past few years I’ve learned how aspects of our personality are present in our faces, how symptoms of depression cause faces to appear less socially desirable, and how wearing make-up changes perceptions of social traits – but the most important signals that our faces can give are of health.

The face is a biological billboard and we are expert readers, always interested in what it has to say. We are attracted to healthy-looking faces and avoid those who are unhealthy –- think of the sensation you might have had the last time you were on the train or a bus near someone who looked unwell – but it is the question of what makes a face look “healthy” in our eyes that is the most intriguing.

There are many historical examples of people altering their facial appearance to appear healthier. Things like the influence of body mass index (BMI) on face shape, or the smoothness of skin texture play a role in how healthy we are viewed to be, but it is actually facial colouration that seems to be the most important.

The lighter areas show where the skin of healthier looking faces are brighter (left), redder (middle), and yellower (right).

Early research has identified that faces with lighter, redder, and yellower skin were seen as the healthiest – and this was consistent across all ethnicities. There also seemed to be relevant biological processes associated with these colours: for example, lighter skin is associated with the ability to absorb more vitamin D. Greater redness, particularly when from oxygenated blood, may indicate more efficient circulation and blood supply to the skin.

But it is yellowness that seems to be particularly relevant for health, and for good reason: people with yellower skin tend to have healthier diets, rich in fruit and vegetables. The organic pigments in these foods, known as carotenoids, are hugely beneficial for health, and seem to be responsible for producing that desirable healthy glow. Intriguingly, tanning also increases skin yellowness and makes faces appear healthier, but the yellowness conferred by carotenoids (as a result, perhaps, of a healthy diet) is preferred to the yellowness brought about by tanning.

Healthy glow

The secret to a healthy appearance isn’t as simple as eating more fruit and vegetables, however, it’s a bit more complicated than that – and healthy face colouration may be more nuanced than previously thought. Skin conditions such as dark circles under the eyes or rosacea, a condition which causes the skin to flush and redden, cause great concern to sufferers – Google searches of treatments or remedies return millions of hits. Both these conditions are also localised to areas of the face, which suggests colours in certain areas of faces could be relevant for looking healthy. Might these patterns of colour in faces, rather than the colour of the entirety of facial skin, be more relevant for looking healthy?

To answer this questions, we asked observers to rate faces for how healthy they thought they were, and calculated the colour differences between faces seen as very healthy and very unhealthy. We used Caucasian faces for the comparison, but there is some evidence that suggests how the overall skin colours of yellowness, redness, and lightness are seen as healthy in non-Caucasian faces too: it seems that everyone, regardless of race, finds these tones to be healthy.

Our research found that while yellowness across the whole face was a contributor to looking healthy, confirming earlier findings, lighter skin under the eyes and redder skin on the cheeks seemed to play larger roles. That colouration, in those areas, seemed to account for a lot more variation in health ratings than skin yellowness.

We subtly changed photographed faces to have lighter under-eye skin and redder cheeks – and also the reverse effect: darker under-eye skin and greener cheeks. Asking people to pick which they found the healthiest revealed a strong preference for the former pattern.

One a picture of health, the other, not so much – which do you think looks healthier?

Interestingly, when we reversed the location of the colouration – lighter cheeks and redder under-eyes or darker cheeks and greener under-eyes – there was no clear preference. Given the wealth of research showing lighter skin and redder skin across the whole face is perceived as healthier this result was surprising. What this work suggests is that lightness and redness in our facial skin is seen as healthy, but only when it is under the eyes or in the cheeks, respectively.

Red cheeks are healthy, red eyes not – do you think one looks healthier than the other?

In a final study, I looked at which facial area and colour was seen as the healthiest. While having redder cheeks and light skin under the eyes came out as looking equally healthy, dark skin under the eyes made people think the faces looked quite unhealthy, even more so than sickly-looking greener cheeks.

The ConversationIt is no surprise that cosmetic products such as concealer and blusher are so popular, since they increase a healthy looking colouration in the areas that matter the most to health perception – but nothing could ever beat a good night’s sleep and regular exercise.

Alex Jones, Lecturer, Swansea University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.