Many thanks to the organisers, sponsors and judges at the Online Media Awards and to Al Jazeera for putting my work forward for consideration. It was a happy surprise to be named Freelance Writer of the Year for my work looking at the issues and challenges faced by British Muslim communities.
Here’s what Al Jazeera’s press office had to say about me:
The Online Media Awards recognised Simon Hooper as Best Freelance Writer, for his outstanding journalism primarily writing on British multiculturalism and community relations for Al Jazeera English online.
Much of his recent work for Al Jazeera has focused on issues of Islamophobia, extremism and civil liberties affecting the British Muslim community in the aftermath of the killing of British soldier Lee Rigby in Woolwich in May 2013.
Simon was among the first journalists to focus on the subsequent spate of attacks on mosques across the UK. He followed this up by reporting on an unlikely community alliance that saw an Orthodox Jewish volunteer patrol in north London guarding mosques and other Islamic institutions in a show of solidarity with their Muslim neighbours.
He also wrote about abuses of Schedule 7 counter-terrorism powers and their disproportionate use against Muslims weeks before the topic became mainstream news with the detention of David Miranda.
A series of in-depth investigative features published at the conclusion of the Woolwich trial examined anger and concerns among Muslims in southeast London about the media’s portrayal of the case and their communities.
These included an exclusive interview with a cleric who had been labelled a “key influence” on Lee Rigby’s killers by several British newspapers and a report from inside the Woolwich prayer group – to which no other journalist was able to gain access – where the two men were alleged to have been radicalised.
Other articles in the series examined how growing numbers of black Britons are converting to Islam as a consequence of their experiences of discrimination, disenfranchisement, violence and racism, and considered the media’s complicity in creating a platform for Anjem Choudary and his highly unrepresentative views as a voice for supposed grievances in the Muslim community.
Simon’s stories regularly generate lively discussion below the line, frequently featuring on ‘most viewed’ stories lists and driving traffic to the site via strong social media sharing.