Professor Imran Awan’s extensive research into anti-Muslim hatred has seen him provide expert advice to members of Parliament, social media giants and global consultancies, paving the way for a tougher, more informed stance on Islamophobia.
In the not-too-distant past, little was known about anti-Muslim hate crime. There was a significant shortage of academic evidence, resulting in a lack of progression when it came to policies.
Professor Imran Awan, one of the country’s leading criminologists, began conducting extensive research to address this issue.
Since then, Awan’s research has helped establish new guidelines about online hate speech for the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). He has presented evidence at the House of Commons, as well as conducting reports for a range of governmental ministers. A whole new term, Islamophobia, has been defined. Social media has also been positively affected, with Awan successfully influencing Twitter to introduce new guidance for anti-Muslim speech.
Awan initially worked with third-party online organisation, Tell MAMA, to conduct research on reports of anti-Muslim abuse. It became Tell MAMA’s most viewed academic report, notching up over 2,000 views in a short space of time.
Following that, Awan then sought to improve the reparations for anti-Muslim hate crime online. His report with Tell MAMA saw Twitter introduce a new series of safeguards, seeing an upturn in content being removed and users being suspended.
Awan was then invited to present evidence at the House of Commons, beginning a long and fruitful partnership with Parliament. His research was then disseminated at both a policy and grassroots level via workshops, seminar sand letters.
Outcomes and impact
Awan’s research has helped inform policymaking and development in government, communities and social media. His workshops with Twitter’s Head Office and Tell MAMA practitioners helped them identify key drivers of Muslim hate. His work was cited in Parliament when discussing anti-Muslim hatred in 2015.
He became an expert member of the CPS National Hate Crime Security Panel (CPS), which discusses how social media guidelines can be approved. “Professor Awan recommended that we consider the impact of online abuse and the sharing of harmful content should be part of new revised guidelines,” says Mick Conboy, Head of the CPS Hate Crime project. “The guidance was subsequently amended.”
A number of political parties have adopted Imran’s definition of Islamophobia. The then-Minister for Faith and Communities, Lord Bourne, commissioned Awan to deliver a new report. “Awan’s depth of knowledge has been valuable to us,” Bourne says. “His research has helped to develop and inform Government policy.”
Awan has provided valuable guidance to Faith Associates, a global consultancy working to empower communities. Awan’s research has helped change policy strategies, helping over 900 mosques across the UK in the process.
Faith Associates now plan to translate Awan’s work into Urdu, in order for his research to reach a wider global audience across the sub-continent regions, which currently have over 5,000 mosques.