Muslims 'negatively affected' by counter-terrorism policies, says report

British Muslims are negatively affected by government policies, especially those linked to security and extremism, a campaign group has said.

The Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC) has been carrying out research into discrimination against Muslims for nearly two decades and found that more than 60 per cent of British Muslims felt politicians did not care about them, according to the BBC. The study questioned 1,782 people and included 50 in-depth interviews.

Over half of respondents said they had received verbal abuseReuters

59 per cent of respondents said they believed their lives had been negatively affected by political policies. Additionally more than half said they were treated with suspicion by society.

"We have an environment now, where Muslim people feel they are suspected and where life is increasingly difficult," said the report's author, Arzu Merali.

"The impact of government policies, in particular those related with security, have really had an impact on silencing Muslims - not from a point of view of just talking about political issues, but even to report anti-Muslim hatred," she added.

Most Muslims from all racial backgrounds experience some form of prejudice, according to the report. 40 per cent believed they had faced discrimination at work and 36 per cent said they had experienced discrimination in education.

One of the in-depth interviews was with a 19-year-old white Muslim convert whose college reported her under the government's counter-extremism policy.

Anti-Muslim sentiment is widely considered to have increased in the UK, particularly with the rise of ISIS and following the January Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris.Reuters

"I converted two weeks before Ramadan started and decided I was going to start wearing the hijab, so I let my college know I'd be fasting just to ease them into it," she said.

"I guess that was enough for them to contact Prevent.

"Maybe they thought I was in [Islamic State] or running away to Syria, I don't know what went through their mind."

Her decision to convert meant she faced questioning about her beliefs and after the officers were convinced she wasn't a threat, they tried to recruit her to work with them.

"I can't be a Muslim girl who is just trying to get an education, work and do normal things," she said.

"I've either got to help fight radicalisation or I am becoming radicalised.

"There is no middle ground, I can't just be a normal Muslim. I have to be on one [end of the] spectrum or the other."

In addition to prejudice, over half of British Muslims said they had experienced verbal abuse and 18 per cent had faced physical abuse.

IHRC, while criticising the government's methods in tackling anti-extremism, have praised David Cameron's announcement that anti-Muslim hatred would be recorded by police as a specific hate crime for the first time.

"What we really need is a cultural change, not just some laws here or there," said Merali. "Unfortunately, we have institutional problems that need to be addressed."

A Home Office spokesman insisted the government was committed to tackling "anti-Muslim hatred" and that counter-extremism policies such as Prevent were aimed at "protecting those who might be vulnerable to the poisonous and pernicious influence of radicalisation."