As British police report a surge in hate crimes since the Brexit vote, new research into Islamophobia, especially in the country, has identified the most common ways Muslims are depicted on Facebook, described as the “five walls of Islamophobic hate”.
The most common type of abuse posted on Facebook depicts Muslim women as threats to national security and suggests all Muslims should be deported, according to the study published on Monday in the “International Journal of Cyber Criminology”.
Study author Imran Awan of Birmingham City University told Hindustan Times, “Islamophobia is much more prevalent on social media sites such as Facebook with a number of far-right groups and individuals using Facebook to target Muslim communities before Brexit following trigger events.”
He added, "What this study shows is how attitudes towards Muslims were online before Brexit and how they translate to racist attacks after Brexit, when people felt more comfortable in targeting Muslim communities because of fears around immigration.”
The research report titled “Islamophobia Online: Inside Facebook’s Walls of Hate” examined 100 Facebook pages, posts and comments and uncovered nearly 500 instances of anti-Muslim hate speech.
The networking site was trawled for references to Muslims and Woolwich, Muslims and Islam, Muslims and Extremism, and Muslims and Terrorism, with the results covering dozens of pages including those of right-wing groups.
Awan found there were five recurring ways in which Muslims were portrayed during abuse – which he defines as “the five walls of Islamophobic hate: Muslims are terrorists; Muslims are rapists; Muslim women are a security threat; a war exists between Muslims and ‘us’; Muslims should be deported”.
Among these categories, the most frequent abuse depicted Muslim women as security threats due to their clothing (76 instances), followed by the belief that Muslims should be deported (62 instances).
The view of Muslims as terrorists was the third most common (58 instances), and a war with Muslims (53 instances) and “Muslims as rapists” (45 instances) were the next most often repeated comments.
Men were found to be much more likely to post abuse, with 80% of all comments coming from male users of the site.
The report comes after Facebook recently signed up to a new European Union code of conduct that requires it to review and remove online hate speech from its European sites within 24 hours, the university said.