Chain anti-Muslim emails that have circulated for years have been effectively weaponized into corrosive disinformation online, and the claims they make are false, but tenacious.
We found the central theme of the emails — that the U.K. has been overrun by a Muslim minority population — to be false, even though a handful of individual claims included in these emails are true, as a little truth mixed in with disinformation makes the lies easier for the credulous and semi-credulous to believe.
It’s not clear where or when, exactly, the “Muslim Invasion” emails began. It was widely circulated via forwarded emails and in discussion forums after a series of attacks and attempted attacks plagued the United Kingdom in the lead-up to the country’s general election in June 2017. Some of the claims in the email were new, and others were recycled claims that we have previously investigated.
Muslim Mayors in England Are Proof of a Successful “Invasion.”
A few of the Muslim invasion email’s claims about Muslim mayors in the United Kingdom are correct — but the majority of them don’t check out.
London’s mayor Sadiq Khan was elected to office in May 2016, and he has since become one the most prominent Muslim politicians in Europe. Mohammad Ayub, an immigrant from Pakistan who has served on the Luton Council since 2007, was appointed mayor of Luton for 2017 and 2018, as the chain email claims.
Shadab Qumer, a member of the Oldham Council, was selected to serve as mayor of Oldham for 2017-2018. Qumer’s family emigrated to Glodwick, UK from the Indian subcontinent of Kashmir in 1959. His father, and Qumer himself, were longtime fixtures of the local business community before his appointment to mayor in 2017, the Oldham Chronicle reports.
Other claims made in the email are flat-out wrong and appear to have been simply made up. For 2017 and 2018, Conservative Anne Underwood was elected Lord Mayor of Birmingham, Jane Dowson was elected mayor of Leeds, Colin Rigby was elected mayor of Blackburn, Anne Murphy was elected mayor of Sheffield, and Jeane Fooks was elected Lord Mayor of Oxford. All of these politicians were long-serving council members with local ties, and none of them fit the “invasion” narrative in the email.
“No-Go Zones” and Other Myths
The idea that there are Muslim “no-go zones” in Britain dates back to at least 2015, and it still persists today despite clear proof that it is false. We previously investigated that claim and traced it back to a political pundit who was immediately debunked by British leaders, including then-Prime Minister David Cameron who said the pundit was “clearly an idiot.”
Our 2015 investigation of Muslim no-go zones in the UK also explored the notion that there were “Sharia Courts” and “Sharia Councils” regulating those areas (in the UK or anywhere on the European continent), and we found those claims to be fiction.
Further, it’s not clear where the email’s claims that 78 percent of Muslim women and 63 percent of Muslim men don’t work and receive government benefits such as housing assistance originated. Research shows that those claims are incorrect — but Muslims in the UK are generally worse off economically than other groups; 46 percent of Muslims live in the bottom 10 percent of local authority districts. Additionally, unemployment rates are higher among Muslims than other religious groups, but not as high as this chain email claims, according to a 2015 study:
One of the areas of concern the report highlights is how well these qualifications turn into employment, particularly for females. 29% of Muslim women between the ages of 16 and 24 are in employment, compared to approximately half the general population. For the ages group 25 – 49 the numbers show 57% of Muslim women in employment compared with 80% of women overall.
This raises a number of questions that were posed at the report’s launch as areas that need extra exploration – why are educated Muslim woman not carrying on into employment? Possible reasons cited being cultural influences encouraging them to have a family and stay at home, racism and prejudice in the workplace and/or their qualifications not being from institutions of a high enough standard to appeal to employers. The report notes that Muslim students are less likely to attend Russell Group universities.
Finally, the email claims that there are 4 million Muslims in the UK. This is also false. As of 2016, there were about 3 million Muslims in Britain, which accounted for about 5 percent of the country’s population. There were 1,750 mosques at that time.
In the end, claims made in this email blend some truth in with its highly imaginative (and one might say almost completely made-up) fiction, but the overall point of the email — that the UK has been “taken over” by Muslims — is not supported by any data or reporting.