Islamophobic attacks are at an all-time high. In London, the Metropolitan Police reported a 47 percent increase in the first ten months of 2015. In the USA, CAIR recorded over 70 attacks on mosques in 2015, the highest number yet. And in the week after the Paris terror attacks, British organisation Tell MAMA, which monitors Islamophobic abuse, recorded 115 new cases alone. "We're overwhelmed by the scale of the problem we're dealing with," founder Fiyaz Mughal tells me.Increasingly, Muslim women are bearing the brunt of the hate. Recent incidents on Muslim women have seen them pushed in front of incoming trains; punched and kicked off buses; and attacked whilst collecting their children from school. And it's Muslim women who wear the hijab most at risk."Visible Muslim women encounter the most violence and harassment at a street level," Mughal explains. "There's a definite gender issue here at work when it comes to anti-Muslim hate." He says that 80 percent of the attacks after Paris were on women, and that the reasons for this are partly practical. "There's a visibility factor. It's easy to identify Muslim women who dress in Islamic dress. And also there's the fact that they are less likely to fight back."
The abuse continued for about ten minutes until Fatima's abuser got off at her stop. "As she walked past me I smiled at her and wished her a good evening, to which she responded, 'Fuck you,' and got off the bus." Fatima's first response in this instance was to laugh at her attacker. "Honestly I found it ludicrous, because I can't fathom how a person who knows nothing about me has the capacity to call me names. But if it gets physical and threatening, I would obviously react very differently. I feel things are getting worse generally, which puts me on high alert because I know, as a hijabi, I can be a target."
In one case, a pregnant Muslim woman was pushing a cart in a grocery store in California and a man rammed the cart into her belly.
Even when discrimination doesn't cross over into violence, Muslim women are still treated differently. "People assume, because I wear a hijab, that I don't speak English," Chaudry adds. "They speak to me so slowly, and when I respond they go, 'Wow you speak perfect English!' I try to engage these people in dialogue, to explain to them just because I'm Muslim and I wear a headscarf doesn't mean I can't speak English. I'm not that different from them really, I like Star Wars and do many of the same things ordinary Americans do."
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I ask Mughal about the profile of the typical offender. "White, male, aged 15 to 35. What's interesting is that when we speak to perpetrators they say they'd never normally attack a woman. But they feel like they can target Muslim women, because they didn't see them as female. They've dehumanized them so much that they can't see their identity in a gendered way anymore. The only thing they see is that they are Muslim."
These are men who go home to their wives, and say, 'I love you, we're equals,' but they go out on the street and opportunistically attack Muslim women.