Lived Experiences of Online and Offline Victimization

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Irene Zempi, Imran Awan
  • Bristol, UK: 
    Policy Press
    , January
     88 pages.
     For other formats: Link to Publisher's Website.


Appearing as early as 1923, the term “Islamophobia” was accepted as a neologism in the 1970s and witnessed an increasing circulation after the 1980s. The term finally gained “public policy prominence” with the publication of the Runnymede Trust’s report of 1997 that defined it as “unfounded hostility towards Muslims which results in fear and dislike of Muslims” (2). Academicians, psychologists, scholars, and experts in diverse academic fields have since been seriously engaged in defining, interpreting, and explaining the causes, characteristics, and other diverse aspects and issues related to Islamophobia and the execution of hate crimes against Muslims. Islamophobia: Lived Experiences of Online and Offline Victimisation, by Irene Zempi and Imran Awan, is one among other reflections of this academic exercise. It highlights the online (cyber hate) and offline expressions of Islamophobia and “hate crimes” directed at Muslims, thus adding yet another important and timely work to this genre of literature.

This study, as a form of qualitative research, is based on interviews (held between May and August 2015) with Muslim victims of cyber (online) and offline Islamophobic hate crimes. Zempi and Awan explain that Muslims are considered “potentially terrorists” and those “who are visibly identifiable” (by means of beard, veil, etc.), are reported to have been the targets of most of the “Islamophobic attacks” (3).

The introductory chapter, “Understanding Islamophobia,” attempts to explain Islamophobia by linking its recent upsurge to its historical context. The second chapter, “Research Methods,” acquaints readers with the approach taken by the authors in their research, covered under three headings: “overview of research design,” “qualitative interviewing,” and a particularly important research tool, “reflexivity” (describing how the positionality or subjectivity of the researchers might have influenced the study). This is followed by a discussion on triggering events and factors responsible for Islamophobic hate crimes, both national and international, in the third chapter. A crucial part of the study highlights the role of media, terrorist attacks, and Muslim “visibility or identity” as the triggers of Islamophobic/hate crimes committed online as well as offline. Interestingly, here Islamophobia is understood as a novel form of “racism and racialization,” lucidly explained by linking the issue to “intersectionality theory,” which takes account of multiple identities of victims, including race, gender, ethnicity, and so on.

The next chapter, “Nature and Extent of Online and Offline Islamophobia,” examines the nature and means of the hate crimes. The researchers observe that though the nature and means of these criminal attacks vary in “the manner the victims are targeted,” the “aims are the same” (54).

The fifth chapter, “Impacts of Online and Offline Islamophobia,” as the title suggests, highlights the impact of Islamophobic hostility on its victims and their families and acquaintances. Most of the victims have been found to face psychological and emotional disorders such as PTSD, with symptoms of anxiety, anger, despair, and depression, feelings of vulnerability, fear, and insecurity. Based on the reports of the victims themselves, this book appears as a commendable academic exercise in exposing and thereby preventing anti-Muslim hate crimes.

The growingly grave issue of Islamophobic hostility needs to be addressed as early as possible. Hence, the authors have included “Prevention and Responses, as the concluding chapter to record the responses, recommendations, and suggestions of the victims for tackling and keeping a check on Islamophobic hate crimes. The authors highlight the role of Muslim communities for challenging Islamophobia within, media reporting, the role of police and other responsible agencies in taking timely action against hate crimes.

Another important effective measure against Islamophobic hate crimes is the worldwide engagement of Muslim denominations to promote a genuine picture of Islam, and denounce any form of terrorist activities. The authors have astonishingly omitted this important element in their discussion of “preventive measures.”

Apart from substantiating Islamophobia with facts based on interviews with the victims and primary reports of Islamophobic hostility incidents, the book has a sound bibliography followed by an index. The work exhorts the necessity of imposing a strong check on unbridled Islamophobic hate crimes inflicted through cyber means as well as in the physical/social world. By bringing out the pathetic state of the victims of Islamophobia, Zempi and Awan have attempted to help stop Islamophobic victimization by engaging policy makers, stake holders, criminal justice agencies, and other agencies concerned with Islamophobia. With a lucid but academic style and methodology, this research monograph can be strongly recommended not only for academicians, experts, and students of diverse fields, but also for the policy makers, stake holders, government agencies, and even the general reader as well.

About the Reviewer(s): 

Mohammad Ifran Shah is a doctoral candidate at the Institute of Islamic studies at Aligarh Muslim University.

Date of Review: 
October 18, 2017
About the Author(s)/Editor(s)/Translator(s): 

Irene Zempi is a lecturer in criminology at Nottingham Trent University.

Imran Awan is deputy director of the Centre for Applied Criminology at Birmingham City University.


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