UK

Anti-Muslim Hate Crime Soars In London, According To New Police Figures

01/10/2014 18:27 BST | Updated 02/10/2014 10:59 BST

Muslim hate crime in London has shot up by almost 65% in twelve months, with spikes in violence linked not to Islamic State beheadings, but to incidents closer to home like the Rotherham grooming scandal.

Metropolitan Police figures show that incidents of hate crime rose from 344 to 570 in the last year, and women are key targets because of their identifiable Islamic dress.

Fiyaz Mughal, director of the Islamophobia monitoring group Tell MAMA, said that he had been expecting an increase of between 30-50%, and had not predicted such a dramatic rise.

muslims shopping uk

Muslim women shopping in central London, where anti-Islam hate crimes have shot up in the past 12 months

"It's certainly linked to current events, but the severity of the reports we get vary, depending on what is happening in the news," he told HuffPost UK. "When there's an IS beheading, or there's a terror threat made against the UK, you'll find a bombardment of online abuse and threats. And it will be a discernible spike, increasing for a short period and then dying down."

It was national scandals, like the grooming of young girls in Rotherham by groups of Pakistani men, or the alleged "Trojan horse" plot by hardline Muslims in Birmingham to "take over" some of the city's state schools, that had the most impact on the figures, Mughal said.

"The most significant rise in numbers came after the killing of Lee Rigby last year, that was extremely prolonged. But it did die down and life became more peaceful. It was just a dull background noise until the 'Trojan Horse' coverage.

"That led to a longer period of threat, and more violence, with direct threats and attacks against mosques. The worst this year has been linked to Rotherham, and mosques in particular have experience many threats."

Muslims feared a national scandal more than an international incident, he said, because the reaction to a jihadist atrocity overseas was likely to only be verbal abuse, rather than physical.

Asma Sheikh, an Islamic clothes store owner from north west London, told the BBC her tyres were slashed after the murder of Drummer Rugby in Woolwich by two violent Muslim extremists.

"All four of my tyres were burst because someone had put nails in them. And it had written on my window 'go back home'," the mother-of-two said.

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"There is a pattern [of violence]," she added. "When we hit an event like the [Woolwich] beheading, 7/7, 9/11, then generally everything dies down for a while. It takes time for people to come out again and we understand that."

The figures came 24 hours after Home Secretary Theresa May announced a raft of tough new anti-terror laws at the Conservative Party conference, including new "banning orders" would allow the authorities to outlaw extremist groups, even if they did not pose a terrorism threat.

The Home Secretary told activists in Birmingham that the potential for Britons to become radicalised at home before joining Islamic State terrorists in Iraq and Syria and then returning to the UK was clear and so new powers were needed.

She said banning orders would help the authorities tackle groups that are not covered by existing terror laws while extremist disruption orders would tackle those "who stay just within the law but still spread poisonous hatred".

The Islamic Human Rights Commission chairman Massoud Shadjareh called the measures "disturbing" and said they were more likely to lead to ostracisation of peaceful Muslims. He cited the case of former Guantanamo Bay detainee Moazzam Begg, who had seven terror charges dropped against him today at the Old Bailey. "Under these proposed laws the likes of Mr Begg and others who outspokenly criticise western foreign policy would be criminalised for merely their beliefs and opinions," he said.

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