Islamophobia on the rise in Britain
London - Following a slew of global Islamist terrorist attacks in 2015, Islamophobia is on the rise in Britain, with statistics from London’s police force confirming that reported Islamophobic hate crimes in the British capital have nearly doubled over the past two years.
There were 557 Islamophobic hate crimes reported in 2013; 624 in 2014 and 878 as of November 2015, statistics from London’s Metropolitan Police Service revealed, with direct cause and effect between terrorist attacks and Islamophobic incidents.
In the wake of terrorist attacks in Paris in 2015, reported assaults against Muslims in London more than tripled. “It is with regret but something that we have come to realise, through experience, that hate crime can increase during these difficult times,” a police spokesman said, adding that London police had increased patrols in areas with a high number of Muslim residents.
Tell MAMA (Measuring Anti-Muslim Attacks), a UK-based group that monitors Islamophobic incidents, has documented the link between terrorist attacks and anti-Muslim hate crimes. It revealed there were 115 reported attacks in the wake of the Paris attacks representing a spike of more than 300%.
“There is a rising trend of Islamophobia or anti-Muslim hatred and this is, we believe, partly driven by the media, social media, extremism and terrorism… and we have seen that each time there is a major terrorist incident, there is a very large spike in anti- Muslim prejudice,” Tell MAMA founder Fiyaz Mughal said.
“Sadly, as long as there is extremism and terrorism, and with some inflammatory media headlines and articles, the ‘background noise’ of anti-Muslim prejudice or hatred will continue.”
A total of 3,254 religiously motivated crimes were recorded in England and Wales in 2014-15, out of a total of 52,528 hate crimes, a 43% increase on the previous year. The large majority of these crimes were against Muslims.
That figure could be much higher. A recent report by criminologists Imran Awan of Birmingham City University and Irene Zempi of Nottingham Trent University revealed that many Muslims do not report incidents of Islamophobic abuse.
The report, published in October, conducted in-depth interviews with victims and uncovered “worrying levels of fear and intimidation experienced by many Muslims, compounded by a lack of support from the wider public when facing physical threats in the real world and an absence of tough action from social media platforms at the abuse people are receiving online”.
Even London police acknowledged that Islamophobic crimes are under-reported but contended that they are being more reported than they were in the past.
“We are acutely aware that all areas of hate crime are still under-reported and we are encouraged that more people feel confident to report racial and religious hate crimes… We believe the increase in Islamophobic hate crime is due to a range of factions.
This includes a growing willingness of victims to report hate crime [and] an improved awareness of staff in identifying these offences,” a police statement said.
“World events can also contribute to a rise in hate crime.”
Labour Party candidate for London mayor, Sadiq Khan, a Muslim, said he would do more to tackle Islamophobia if he becomes mayor. “Every time there is a terrorist incident involving evil fanatics who abuse the name of Islam, ordinary, law-abiding Muslims pay a heavy price,” he wrote in an opinion piece in the Guardian.
“We must do more to challenge Islamophobia. As mayor of London, I’ll make tackling hate crimes… a top priority for the Metropolitan police and ensure they get the resources they need to make a real difference,” he said.
As for how best to deal with the rise in Islamophobic sentiment, Mughal said: “Education, education and more education.
“We are working in schools to ensure that young people understand that anti-Muslim prejudice is unacceptable.
Just as anti-Semitism is wrong, so anti-Muslim prejudice is also wrong. No-one should be targeted because of their identities.”
“Work in schools is key and this is why training to teachers and educationalists is fundamental,” he added. “This is something that civil society can do and more groups need to step forward and undertake this work. It is all well and good talking about Islamophobia, the key is about tackling such prejudice whilst ensuring that it is done in partnership with other groups.”