December 27, 2013
Hate crimes against Muslims have soared in the UK this year, figures show. Hundreds of anti-Muslim offences were carried out across the country in 2013, with Britain’s biggest force, the Metropolitan police, recording 500 Islamophobic crimes. Many forces reported a surge in the number of anti-Muslim hate crimes after the murder of soldier Lee Rigby by two Islamic extremists in Woolwich, south-east London, in May.
But the figures could be much higher as nearly half of the 43 forces in England and Wales did not reveal how many hate crimes had targeted Muslims. Some forces admitted they did not always record the faith of a religious hate-crime victim.
Tell Mama, a group which monitors anti-Muslim incidents, said it had dealt with 840 cases since April, with the number expected to rise to more than 1,000 by the end of March. This compared with 582 anti-Muslim cases it dealt with from March 2012 to March 2013.
Fiyaz Mujhal, director of Faith Matters, which runs the Tell Mama project, has called for police forces to improve monitoring of Islamophobic crimes.”There are three problems we come across,” Mujhal said. “Firstly, there is a lack of understanding of the language of Islamophobia thrown at victims in any incidents. Secondly, there is very little training on how to ask relevant questions to pull out anti-Muslim cases. Thirdly, recording processes are not in line with each other. One force will allow an officer to flag an incident as anti-Muslim, another force will flag it as religious hate crime. There is no uniformity.
A CPS spokeswoman said: “As set out in CPS guidelines on prosecuting cases involving communications sent via social media, content has to be more than simply offensive to be contrary to the criminal law. In order to preserve the right to free speech the threshold for prosecution must be high and only communications that are grossly offensive, indecent, obscene or false are prohibited by the legislation.”
A justice ministry spokesman said: “These are despicable crimes that devastate lives and communities. The courts already hand out tougher punishments where race or religion are found to be aggravating factors. The number of people receiving a custodial sentence for these appalling crimes is higher than ever before.”