By Handan Kazanci
When father-of-five Makram Ali left Ramadan prayers on Monday night, he had no idea he was about to become the latest Muslim die on the streets of Europe or the U.S., where figures show a rising wave of Islamophobia has taken hold.
The 51-year-old was walking with other worshippers through the streets of Finsbury Park, north London, when he collapsed and was hit by a van that had allegedly been deliberately driven into the crowd.
He died in his daughter’s arms and 11 other Muslims were injured in what is being treated as a terrorist incident by British police.
For many observers, the attack was the latest incident in which Muslims have been targeted in Europe and the U.S.
According to Tell MAMA, a U.K.-based group that monitors Islamophobic incidents, there has been a sharp rise in anti-Muslim attacks following the May 2013 murder of British soldier Lee Rigby in southeast London by two radicalized attackers.
Subsequent terrorist incidents around the world have also contributed to rising levels of Islamophobia, according to the monitoring group.
Data on hate crimes targeting Muslims from the Metropolitan Police, which polices Greater London and is the U.K.’s largest police service, shows a increase since 2014.
In that year, 623 such offenses were reported, a figure that nearly doubled to 1,221 last year.
Explosion of hate
The Muslim community has also seen a spike in abuse and attacks since the U.K. voted to leave the EU last year.
“The statistics paint a profoundly bleak picture of the explosion of anti-Muslim hate both online and on our streets, with visibly Muslim women being disproportionately targeted by cowardly hatemongers,” Tell MAMA Chairman Shahid Malik said following the referendum.
According to The Guardian newspaper, which cited police sources, anti-Muslim hate crimes surged in the aftermath of the Manchester Arena bombing and London Bridge attack in May and June.
There were 139 Islamophobic attacks in Manchester a week after the suicide bombing that killed 22 concert-goers, including children. There were 25 such incidents the previous week, the newspaper reported.
A “short-term spike” was reported in London before the Finsbury Park attack.
This rise in Islamophobia has been echoed around Europe.
In France, which is home to western Europe’s largest Muslim population, anti-Muslim attacks rose dramatically after the January 2015 Charlie Hebdo attacks and the killing of 130 people in Paris the following November.
“The rise of Islamophobic acts in response to the attacks demonstrates a confusion between terrorism and Islam,” the Collective Against Islamophobia in France said in a 2016 report.
According to the collective, 764 Islamophobic incidents were recorded in 2014, which rose to 905 the following year, an 18.5 percent rise. The number of physical attacks on Muslims leapt by 150 percent in the same period, from 22 to 55.
In its report on 2015, there were 419 reported acts of discrimination, 39 assaults and 25 acts of vandalism against places of worship across France.
Germany, which also the second-largest Muslim population in the EU, including a significant Turkish community, has also seen a rise in anti-Muslim sentiment. This is mirrored in the rise of the PEGIDA movement.
In its 2016 European Islamophobia Report, the Ankara-based SETA think tank used figures from the Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs, which oversees the majority of mosques in Germany, to show a rise in Islamophobia.
In 2013, the union recorded 12 attacks on German mosques, escalating rapidly to 73 in 2014 and 77 in 2015.
A study by the Bertelsmann Foundation in 2015 showed that 57 percent of non-Muslim Germans perceived Islam as a threat while 61 percent said Islam was not compatible with Western society.
A poll for the U.K.’s Chatham House think tank in February showed 55 percent of people in 10 European countries agreed that further migration from mainly Muslim countries should be stopped.
Meanwhile, the SETA report examined Islamophobia in 27 countries, including the U.K., France, Germany, Russia and Portugal.
“Muslims are seen as the enemy ‘within’,” report editors Enes Bayrakli and Farid Hafez said. “There is a wide consent in western societies to Muslims not being seen as equal citizens.”
Court's headscarf ruling
Lamia Guene, head of France’s Association Against Islamophobia and Racism, told the report’s authors: “The first targets of Islamophobia are Muslim women who suffer verbal and physical attacks because of their visibility.
“Muslim men are also discriminated against but more so at work.”
Islamophobic attacks in Austria increased 62 percent in 2016 compared to the previous year, research by the Documentation and Consultancy Center for Muslims. Last year, there were 253 attacks against Muslims compared to 156 in 2015.
The majority of incidents involved Muslim women and more than half took place on public transport or in other public spaces.
According to the report, 31 percent of attacks were written or verbal and five percent were physical assaults.
The report also pointed to the decision by the European Court of Justice in March that backed employers who banned their staff from wearing headscarves and said it could be used to justify Islamophobia among some groups.
Across the Atlantic, where Donald Trump’s presidential campaign has been followed by his attempts to ban migration from seven Muslim-majority nations, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said it tracked a 44 percent increase in anti-Muslim hate crime last year.
Between the start of 2015 and the end of 2016, there had also been a 57 percent increase in incidents of anti-Muslim bias.
There were 260 anti-Muslim hate crimes last year, according to CAIR, and 2,213 cases of anti-Muslim bias.