Here, you'll find a very brief guide to some of the ways prejudice manifests in twenty-first century Britain. This is not designed to be more than a quick introduction, but you might find it helpful if you are not sure if what you are experiencing or seeing in your community has crossed the line into hate, or if you are seeing what you think might be a potential prejudice play out in ways that are unfamiliar to you. Sadly, there is much more that can be said about each kind of prejudice we refer to here, and also about the ways these kinds of hate can often intersect in extremely harmful means.

Understanding racism

A woman holding a placard which says Racism hurts everyone

Racism is where a person thinks another person is inferior because of their colour, ethnicity, nationality or race. This can result in them treating that person differently or unfairly. This is called racial discrimination.

Institutional racism is when an organisation handles and responds to issues about racism badly because of poor leadership, structure or procedure. So an organisation can be institutionally racist even if not that many people within the organisation are doing or saying racist things, or if not everyone interacting with the organisation experiences racism personally.

Understanding Islamophobia

A diverse group of people holding a banner which says No Attacks Against Muslims. Refugees are welcome

Islamophobia has become the word most commonly used word to describe prejudice against Muslims or against Islam. It includes prejudice towards Islam as a faith and towards Muslims as a group or as individuals. It is useful to know that people with hostile views towards Muslims and/or Islam often use the literal meaning of the word (i.e. ‘fear of Islam’) to declare that Islamophobia is not a form of racism; however, that is just semantics.

Islamophobia is a growing problem in the UK. Hope not hate’s 2018 (?) polling showed that 35% of British people feel that Islam incompatible with the British way of life. This prejudice is driven in part by terrorist incidents perpetrated by people claiming to be inspired by Islamist ideology, and by negative stories around child sexual exploitation in some predominantly Muslim communities. Much Islamophobia is fuelled by organised anti-Muslim far right groups, and by the negative portrayal of Islam and Muslims in the media and online.

How does Islamophobia play out in communities?

Individual victims

The victims of opportunistic hate crimes against Muslims are disproportionately women. This is in part because some Muslim women are easily distinguishable because of their dress, particularly if they cover their hair in an identifiably Muslim style such as a hijab, jilbab, or niqaab.

Another form of hatred is that experienced by moderate or progressive Muslims, emanating from more religiously conservative elements of the community, or from Islamist-inspired extremists, who attack individuals for being ‘not Muslim enough’. This is something Ahmadiya Muslims in particular experience, as other strands of Islam do not accept the theological basis of Ahmadiya beliefs.

Not every individual who experiences opportunistic Islamophobia is actually Muslim, as attacks and verbal assaults are often aimed at people of colour who attackers perceive to be Muslim because of their ethnicity.

Community targeting

Prejudice against Muslim communities can be particularly divisive in communities, where it might display as resistance to a perfectly legitimate and area-appropriate planning application for a mosque, or as inflammatory campaigns claiming Muslim parents are resisting celebration of Christmas or Easter in schools.

Structural Islamophobia

Examples of structural Islamophobia include the statistics showing that people applying for jobs with Muslim sounding names are less likely to be selected for a job interview compared to people applying with ‘English’ sounding names with the same skills and experience.

Understanding antisemitism

A placard that reads NO to antisemitism - #EnoughIsEnough

Antisemitism in short is anti-Jewish racism. Antisemitism can be expressed as negative beliefs about or behaviour towards Jews because they are Jewish. Throughout history, antisemitism has adapted to changing times and circumstances.

The IHRA (International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance) definition is a non-legally binding working definition which we work with, and it states:

“Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”

Manifestations might include the targeting of the state of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity. However, criticism of Israel similar to that levelled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic. Antisemitism frequently charges Jews with conspiring to harm humanity, and it is often used to blame Jews for “why things go wrong.” It is expressed in speech, writing, visual forms and action, and employs sinister stereotypes and negative character traits.

Contemporary examples of antisemitism

Contemporary examples of antisemitism in public life, the media, schools, the workplace, and in the religious sphere could, taking into account the overall context, include, but are not limited to:

    • Calling for, aiding, or justifying the killing or harming of Jews in the name of a radical ideology or an extremist view of religion.

    • Making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as collective — such as, especially but not exclusively, the myth about a world Jewish conspiracy or of Jews controlling the media, economy, government or other societal institutions.

    • Accusing Jews as a people of being responsible for real or imagined wrongdoing committed by a single Jewish person or group, or even for acts committed by non-Jews.

    • Denying the fact, scope, mechanisms (e.g. gas chambers) or intentionality of the genocide of the Jewish people at the hands of National Socialist Germany and its supporters and accomplices during World War II (the Holocaust).

    • Accusing the Jews as a people, or Israel as a state, of inventing or exaggerating the Holocaust. · Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations.

    • Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.

    • Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.

    • Using the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism (e.g., claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterize Israel or Israelis.

    • Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.

    • Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel. Antisemitic acts are criminal when they are so defined by law (for example, denial of the Holocaust or distribution of antisemitic materials in some countries). Criminal acts are antisemitic when the targets of attacks, whether they are people or property – such as buildings, schools, places of worship and cemeteries – are selected because they are, or are perceived to be, Jewish or linked to Jews. Antisemitic discrimination is the denial to Jews of opportunities or services available to others and is illegal in many countries.

Understanding anti-Roma prejudice

Roma march through Budapest with a banner reading Roma Pride Day to demonstrate against the racism and discrimination that the Roma community face in Hungary Attila Kisbenedek/AFP via Getty Images

One of the most commonly found prejudices in UK and across Europe is against Roma communities. Roma, singular Rom, also called Romanyor Gypsies (considered pejorative), are traditionally itinerant people who originated in northern India but live in modern times worldwide, principally in Europe. It is generally agreed that Roma groups left India in repeated migrations and that they were in Persia by the 11th century, in southeastern Europe by the beginning of the 14th, and in western Europe by the 15th century. By the second half of the 20th century they had spread to every inhabited continent. Many Roma consider the name Gypsy to be pejorative. Others prefer their own ethnonym and object to being called Roma.

The Roma’s own supposed disposition to wander has been forcibly furthered by exile or deportation. Only 80 years after their first appearance in western Europe in the 15th century, they fell under the penalty of banishment in almost all the nations of western Europe. Despite their systematic exile, or transportation abroad, however, they continued to reappear in one guise or another back in the countries they had left.

As unsettled groups living among settled communities, Roma have become convenient scapegoats. Their relations with the authorities in the host country have been marked by consistent contradiction. Official decrees were often aimed at settling or assimilating them, yet local authorities systematically refused them the bare hospitality of a campsite. During the Holocaust the Nazis murdered an estimated 400,000 Roma. French laws in modern times forbade them campsites and subjected them to police supervision, yet they were taxed and drafted for military service like ordinary citizens. Spain and Wales are two countries often cited as examples where Roma have become settled, if not wholly assimilated. In modern times the socialist countries of eastern Europe attempted programs of enforced settlement to end Roma migration.

To learn more about anti-Roma prejudice, we recommend this article https://www.travellerstimes.org.uk/features/anti-gypsyism-last-acceptable-form-racism-europe and this https://www.travellermovement.org.uk/about/gypsy-roma-traveller-history-and-culture

Understanding Islamist extremism

a picture of Islamist extremist Anjem Choudary on a microphone

The British government defines Islamist extremism as any form of Islam that opposes "democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs." Such ideology comes from a very literal interpretation of selective sections of the Muslim sacred texts, the Koran, and some of the Hadith, the Islamic textual commentary on the Koran.

Many people, including Muslim groups, oppose the use of the term ‘Islamist extremism’, fearing it can delegitimise the Islamic faith in general. It is possible to support non-violent Islamism without supporting violence or terrorism, however political Islamism does advocate for rule through sharia law as part of a Muslim caliphate as an ideal, and rejects the idea of democracy and non-Muslim rule of law.

Those holding extremist views based on this kind of interpretation of Islam are often critical of, and sometime even responsible for violence against, more mainstream Muslim groups, and against Muslim groups and individuals advocating for moderate or radical interpretations of the faith.

Understanding Sikh extremism

The vast majority of Sikhs in the UK believe that behaviour that encourages hatred of others is extremist. However, there is a growing minority both here and internationally who have blurred the lines between legitimate activism and extremism. In the UK, this manifests in activity which impacts on the whole Sikh community, as well as damaging relations with wider communities. Examples of issues that we have seen being misused to divide Sikh communities rather than build cohesion include tensions around:

  • The legitimate campaign for self-determination in the Punjab, India or for the creation of Khalistan.
  • raising awareness of and campaigning to prevent and to bring to justice perpetrators of grooming
  • ensuring the principles of the Sikh faith are not distorted and the proper observance of Sikh practise in Gurdwaras

So how does one spot individuals from the Sikh community who may hold problematic views, as opposed to those who are simply committed to legitimate activism? If literature they produce or speeches they make include demonization of whole groups (particularly in relation to the Muslim community), it would be legitimate to ask questions about motivation. Likewise, some Sikh individuals have expressed support and solidarity, and even shared platforms with known anti-Muslim racists such as Stephen Lennon. Others have directed their extremist activity within the Sikh community, for example attacking other more moderate leaders in public, or disrupting marriage ceremonies between Sikhs and non-Sikhs.

Understanding Hindu extremism

a group of men at a demonstration

Extremism in the Hindu community in the UK is rare.When it does manifest, it is generally framed in response to international influences, particularly the extremist elements of the Indian nationalist movement, or in terms of a sense of injustice when Hindus become the victims of misplaced Islamophobia or a mistaken backlash when an Islamist terror attack takes place in the UK or internationally.

As with Sikh extremism, the demonization of whole groups in speeches or literature (particularly in relation to the Muslim community), would be cause to ask questions about motivation

Understanding homophobia, transphobia and sexual orientation discrimination

A young person holding a placard which says Defend and Protect #QueerKids

People who identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual can experience harassment or discrimination from people who are scared of or uncomfortable with these identities.

Homophobia can be defined as the fear, hatred, discomfort with, or mistrust of people who are lesbian, gay, or bisexual. Biphobia is fear, hatred, discomfort, or mistrust, specifically of people who are bisexual. Similarly, transphobia is fear, hatred, discomfort with, or mistrust of people who are transgender, genderqueer, or don’t follow traditional gender norms.

Although transphobia, biphobia, and homophobia are similar, they’re not the same. Both gay and straight people can be transphobic and biphobic, and people can be transphobic without being homophobic or biphobic.

Homophobia can take many different forms, including negative attitudes and beliefs about, aversion to, or prejudice against bisexual, lesbian, and gay people. Some homophobia may have its source in conservative religious or cultural beliefs.

In its most extreme forms, homophobia, biphobia and transphobia can manifest as bullying, abuse, and violence inflicted on LGBT+.

Some LGBT+ people experience structural discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. This may be discrimination from religious institutions, companies or civic society.

LGBT+ people and their allies have fought for equal rights and continue to do so, especially concerning marriage, employment, housing and health care equality, and protection from hate crimes.

Understanding disability hate

a man on the floor with his wheelchair on its side right next to him. Appears to be hurt. Picture by Rex Features

Disability hate crime is “Any incident/crime, which is perceived by the victim or any other person, to be motivated by a hostility or prejudice based on a person’s disability or perceived disability.”

Association of Chief Police Officers and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) 

Disability Hate is a huge issue, of which there is poor awareness, and hate crimes are disproportionately underreported because people don’t recognise disability discrimination when it happens. This is also made worse because some disabled people have accessibility issues, which do not allow them to report hate online, or over the phone, or because police stations and support serves are not accessible to people with physical disabilities. For some disabled people, their disability does not allow them to recognise they are the victim of hate, and for others, their disability means they are not able to communicate that to others.

Disabled people can experience:

  • A physical attack such as physical assault, damage to property, offensive graffiti or arson
  • A threat of attack including offensive letters, abusive or obscene phone calls, groups hanging around to intimidate, and unfounded, malicious complaints
  • Verbal abuse, insults or harassment – taunting on the street or in public spaces, offensive leaflets and posters, abusive gestures, dumping of rubbish outside homes or through letterboxes, and bullying at school or in the workplace