Religious hate crimes in London have gone up by at least 50 percent, according to newly published data from the Metropolitan Police. While authorities recorded 915 such crimes from 2013 to 2014, 1,371 cases were booked in the following year. In total, 13,899 religious hate crimes took place in London from 2014 to 2015, at a rate of 16.8 for every 10,000 individuals – the highest rate for any police jurisdiction across England and Wales.
The data was released by the Home Office on October 13, as Prime Minister David Cameron announced that hereafter, anti-Muslim hate crimes would be recorded in a separate category. He also promised to provide more funding that would help beef up security personnel at religious buildings across London.
Speaking before the first meeting of a new Community Engagement Forum at Downing Street, Cameron said, “I want to build a national coalition to challenge and speak out against extremists and the poison they peddle. I want British Muslims to know we will back them to stand against those who spread hate and to counter the narrative which says Muslims do not feel British.”
The data also revealed that the city has witnessed a 44 percent increase in disability hate crimes over the last 12 months, with 124 such incidents being reported in 2013-14 and 178 in 2014-15. Racial hate crimes still remain the most common type of hate crime in London, after an increase of 18 percent translated to 11,540 such incidents in 2014-15. Hate crimes related to sexual orientation also seemed to have increased by 28 percent while hate crimes against transgender individuals rose by 35 percent.
Members of Muslim groups across Great Britain welcomed Cameron’s new initiative, according to which hate crimes against Muslims would be recorded in a separate category. The same approach would be followed while recording anti-Semitic attacks.
“We have been campaigning for uniformity in the recording processes in forces in England and Wales for some time now and whilst we support victims of anti-Muslim hatred and map, measure and monitor anti-Muslim hatred, this should be parallel with and in partnership with police forces,” said Fiyaz Mughal, Director of TellMAMA (Measuring Anti-Muslim Attacks), which monitors attacks on Muslims in the UK. “Police forces usually receive cases which are more around the aggressive end of anti-Muslim hatred... So we warmly welcome the announcement from the Prime Minister, which also sucks the oxygen out of those groups who promote a narrative that the government or Britain is against Muslims - it is not.”
According to Mughal, TellMAMA has supported over 4,500 victims of Islamophobic attacks in the last three and a half years, resulting in hundreds of arrests. The apparent rise in the number of hate crimes targeted towards Muslims in Britain has also been widely reported.
While many Muslim leaders have welcomed the new initiative, some said that they would like to withhold their comments until its effects were substantially evident.
“It is important that there is the ability for police forces to record Islamophobic crime separately, just so that we can identify the cause of that crime and deal with it in creating an appropriate strategy,” said Miqdaad Versi, assistant secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain.
He said that Cameron’s announcement was only the first step in the right direction and the British government should continue its efforts to ensure hate crimes against Muslims reduce. He also explained that the data collected hereon would help identify hate crime hubs throughout the United Kingdom and aid the police to crack down on perpetrators.
“I think that Islamophobia is not really recognized at the moment. And we cannot know this until we have the data to support it. But anecdotally, this is a serious situation,” he added. “We know that 50 percent of the British population considers Islam as a threat to the UK, according to a poll from the Huffington Post... We know that 37 percent of the British population believes there are too many Muslims in the UK. We know the same thing is true of young children with over 30 percent thinking there [are] too many Muslims in the UK.”
Versi said that this bias is rooted in individuals across Great Britain, primarily because of the media’s poor projection of the Muslim community and its constant linking of Muslims with terrorist activities and other social issues.
Photo Credits: MuslimVillage