Something rotten in the state…: Anti-Muslim Racism and the DHMIR

Something rotten in the state…: Anti-Muslim racism in the post-racial society and the need for the the Domination Hate Model of Intercultural Relations, Arzu Merali


This post seeks to outline the background to and development of the Domination Hate Model of Intercultural Relations (DHMIR) (Ameli, 2010).  The theory was developed as a response to the twin needs of civil society and government to (i) have reliable data on the experience of anti-Muslim hatred; (ii) figure an understanding of the causality of such.  DHMIR was developed out of the bind that civil society was in in European and North American settings, whereby (a) governments sought data (without themselves collecting data) of anti-Muslim experiences, and (b) civil society organisations advocating for redress to Islamophobia were unable to provide sustainable and representative data of the problem for reasons as will be discussed below.

It is perhaps a privilege of the UK context that from seeking governmental acknowledgement right down to the bone of public intellectualism, that the idea of Islamophobia in society is now an acknowledged norm.  Nonetheless, it is still contested, and it is still weak in its policy reach, but it is there.  It wasn’t always that way and the situation stands as a testament to the tenacity and multiplicity of civil society, academic and political actors and actions who have brought this situation about.  Elsewhere across Europe there are also signs that the tropes that have so long held Muslims at bay by dint of their hold on ‘policyspeak’ are being challenged robustly at the highest levels e.g. the demonization of refugees, or the inability to acknowledge colonial crimes.  Such matters are now being spoken about at the highest level by political figures of high stature.  What else is left now but to refine this sea-change into policy?  Certainly, regional governance, institutions and inter-governmental organizations have sought to align anti-Muslim hatred with other forms of bias, prejudice and racism, and sought redress through inter alia the issuing of directives and guides to good practice.

There remains however, something missing in the analysis.  It is a subtle absence created by the way discrimination and racism are discussed, as Sayyid (2010) describes: “Racism [is] seen as something that only affects ethnic minorities… as a marginal and exceptional problem, it was not seen as being intimately linked with processes of national formation and maintenance and thus, its elimination would require not only the development of a new etiquette but rather structural reforms that would re-narrate…”

The quest for an acknowledgement of equal citizenship, is one that has underscored many campaigns for recognition by minoritized groups across Europe.  At the current policy and praxis level however, the emphasis on hate crime monitoring in particular but anti-discrimination cultures per se do not strike at the heart of this, rather they can unwittingly at times re-inscribe the idea of a ‘post-racial’ racism that lives in isolation of structural factors and that is reduced to the deviant actions of an individual racist perpetrator whether on the streets or within otherwise neutral unbiased institutions.

The attempts at monitoring reports of hate attacks against Muslims have also been problematic in terms of producing reliable data.  In order to succeed these projects require a culture of reporting (where victims of hate attacks or discrimination report to the police or appropriate authorities) and third party reporting (where victims report to an NGO or other organisation that monitors attacks).  Despite decades of such projects there hasn’t been a successful and sustainable example of this working.  The continued emphasis on this type of project in isolation of all else not only fails to address the bigger questions of equality, causality and accountability, but even at the level of providing reliable data, have been proven at best problematic for various reasons in particular the reliance of the need for that culture of reporting.  It is well documented that victims of hate crime from minoritized communities are reluctant to report for various reasons (see inter alia, Ameli and Merali, 2014 and 2015, Macpherson, 1999, Chowdhury and Fenwick, 2011 and Athwal and Burnett, 2014, Ameli et. al., 2011):


(i) The lack of trust in the police and authorities;

(ii) The fear of double discrimination.  Such fears are based on experience. A case in point is that of Yassir Abdelmottalib, beaten into a coma by a group of youths shouting anti-Muslim slurs against him. Whilst comatose, the police charged with investigating the attack searched his residence on the basis that he may be a terrorist;

(iii) A feeling that no action would be taken by those who were attacked/discriminated against.

(iv) Problems of reliability. How can enough chasing of incidents (the phone around, plus media monitoring plus field work approaches) be enough? And how can these figures be representative? Without the aforesaid funding and more, can each incident, or enough incidents, be sought out to justify the case that hate crime against Muslims exists on a troubling enough scale to warrant sate attention? Statistics collated like this, year on year, vary widely according to the funding of whichever initiative tries to have the widest reach that particular year.


How DHMIR operates

Initially designed to operate on a sustainable basis in terms of a community funded project, DHMIR developed from a pilot study into anti-Muslim experiences in the UK (findings published in Ameli et. al., 2011) and France (Ameli et. al., 2012).  Using survey development from Sheridan (2002), the data collection is conducted on “data triangulation” (Denzin, 2006). Using Denzin’s (2006) four different types of triangulation: data, investigator, theory and methodological triangulation, the first source of the research data collection includes a historical review of the subject as well as the review of the research conducted in this area. This first step shows up information significant areas of the research. The results of this phase have also been used to design further and interrogate the premises of the questions of the survey questionnaires.

The second and the third sources use quantitative and qualitative surveys, covering several demographics.  The qualitative survey questions seek to elicit the respondents’ views as well as lived experiences (Jansen, 2010) on Muslims’ perceptions of society and government, feelings on whether acts of hate are dealt with adequately, causes of racist/Islamophobic culture, if institutions such as the media contribute to such cultures, the effects on the behavior of Muslims etc. In contrast, the quantitative surveys categorized experiences into five sections: Being a Member of a Hated Society, Ideology, Discrimination and Double Discrimination, Cross Cultural Schemata and Intercultural Sensitivity and Policy.

In this model, the discourse of the media, politicians, and even academia; the policies enacted, and laws passed, by governments; the curricula designed for schools and campuses, all need to be problematized in order to move towards a narrative of inclusive citizenship, where age old barriers to equal citizenry are acknowledged as the first step towards engineering policies that can redress the imbalance.

In the UK, it took the murder of Stephen Lawrence and the subsequent corruption and negligence of police investigating his killing to (eventually) lead to an acknowledgement that police services in the UK are institutionally racist[1]. The trauma of this declaration for institutions (often evidenced by successive attempts by governments to undermine the idea) is powerful but also cathartic in terms of building better institutions that can tackle underlying structural inequalities.

DHMIR argues that individual racists cannot exist and be free to act without structural causation.

Without understanding that all these experiences need to be seen as a whole, sporadic hate crime monitoring also fixes arbitrary boundaries around notions of crime, attack and discrimination, that are not always meaningful at the policy or legal levels, or adequately descriptive in sociological terms of minority experience. Whilst DHMIR has been used to assess Muslim experiences, there is a case for adapting it to capture the experiences of other minoritized groups through the processes outlined in the first source above.

DHMIR has been able to offer reliable and sustainable data across a 6-year period, with comparative data for the UK being published in 2015.  Difficult questions are sometimes raised as a result of the findings.  It does so, however, in order to fill and sometimes create a space where the wider questions of equality between and the empowerment of all facets of citizenry.  That used to be a stated goal of governance.  DHMIR is one way to make sure it is not a forgotten one.



Ameli, S.R. (2010) Domination Hate Model of Intercultural Relations. Academic speech at Faculty of World Studies, University of Tehran.

Ameli, S.R. & Merali, A., (2014). Only Canadian: The Experience of Hate Moderated Differential Citizenship for Muslims. Wembley: Islamic Human rights Commission.

Ameli, S.R. & Merali, A. (2015).  Environment of Hate: The New Normal for Muslims in the UK. Wembley: Islamic Human Rights Commission.

Ameli, S. R., Mohseni, E. & Merali, A. (2013). Once Upon a Hatred: Anti-muslim Experiences in the USA. Wembley: Islamic Human Rights Commission.

Ameli, S. R., Mohseni, E., Shahghasemi, E., Rahimpour, M. (2011). Getting the message: The recurrence of hate crimes in the UK. Wembley: Islamic Human Rights Commission.

Athwal, H. And Burnett, J. (2014) Investigated or ignored? An analysis of race-related deaths since the Macpherson report. Institute of Race Relations, London.

Choudhury, T. and Fenwick, H. (2011). The Impact of Counter- terrorism Measures on Muslim Communities. Manchester: Durham University; Equality and Human Rights Commission.

Denzin, N. K. (2006). Part Twelve, Triangulation: A Case For Methodological and Combination Evaluation. In: Sociological Methods. A Sourcebook. 5th ed. New Jersey: Transaction Publishers, 471-522.

Jansen, H. (2010). The Logic of Qualitative Survey Research and its Position in the Field of Social Research Methods. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 11(2), Art. 11,

Macpherson, W., Sir (1999) The Stephen Lawrence Inquiry. Report of an inquiry. Presented to Parliament. PDF.

Sayyid, S. (2010). Do Post-Racials Dream of White Sheep? Tolerace Working Paper, University of Leeds: Leeds.

Sheridan, L. (2002). Effects of the Events of September 11th 2001 on Discrimination and Implicit Racism in Five Religious and Seven Ethnic Groups: A Brief Overview. Leicester: University of Leicester.


[1] See the Macpherson Inquiry (1999).  The Mubarek Inquiry in the mid-2000s, also raised the specter of institutionalized Islamophobia.