Londoners have proved they know the difference “between extremists and ordinary Muslims” after an expected spike in hate crime following the Westminster attack failed to materialise, campaigners have claimed.
Tell Mama, which supports victims of anti-Muslim hate, Stop Hate UK, and Crimestoppers, the national anonymous reporting agency, all told The Huffington Post UK that fears of an explosion in hatred had yet to come true.
Campaigners said the lack of a sudden rise in reports of hate crime was “hugely welcome”.
Iman Abou Atta, director of Tell Mama, told HuffPost UK: “There was no major spike in anti-Muslim hatred after the Westminster terrorist attacks and this is hugely welcome and also interesting.
“After Charlie Hebdo, Paris and the murder of Lee Rigby, there were large spikes in anti-Muslim hatred recorded by us in Tell Mama, though on this occasion we only recorded a small spike, but nowhere near the levels seen after other major terrorist events.
“What we can say categorically is that Londoners are resilient and many know the clear difference between extremists and ordinary Muslims who are also affected by terrorism. A terrorist attack in the UK, is an attack on all of us.”
It comes as faith, community leaders and senior Royals gather in Westminster today for a special ‘service of hope’ following the incident, which is being treated as an act of terror.
On 22 March, armed assailant Khalid Masood ploughed his car into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge, killing three, before crashing into Parliament and knifing PC Keith Palmer. Police continue to investigate his motives.
In the aftermath of the attack, the Coordination Council of London Mosques condemned the incident. It added in a statement: “It is a real mark of our capital that the public’s reaction has been calm and measured, in defiance of the probable wishes of the criminals behind this heinous act[.]
“[W]e must all stand firmly against those who want to use this tragic incident to spread hate and fear within our society.”
A speech by Prime Minister Theresa May made on the steps of Downing Street on the night of the attack appealed for the nation to remember the UK’s values.
“We will all move forward together. Never giving in to terror. And never allowing the voices of hate and evil to drive us apart,” she said.
Campaigners believe May’s words, and those of others who spoke similarly for the need for unity, might have had a “calming and cooling effect”.
“It is pretty clear that the messaging on the day, including this rousing speech from Theresa May, did play a calming and cooling effect on actions of a terrorist which were meant to cause fear, division and mistrust,” Tell Mama’s Iman Atta said.
And in the wake of the attack, hundreds of Muslim women, many with their children, took to Westminster Bridge to stand in unity and solidarity with the victims.
A second gathering last week attracted hundreds of all faiths and no faith to remember those affected.
Despite shows of unity, hate group Britain First were among the far right organisations to hold demonstrations in London following the attack.
But Ian Davey, a reporting analyst at Stop Hate UK, told HuffPost: “We haven’t experienced any increase in reports [to our help line], though this doesn’t mean to say there wasn’t a spike somewhere.
“But we have noticed an increase in online [hate] through comments posted on blogs, et. cetera.”
While campaigners said it was too early to say definitively why there wasn’t a spike in reports, a spokesperson for the National Police Chiefs Council told HuffPost that police forces across the country were working in communities to maintain unity and tolerance.
It cautioned that the full extent of hate crime reports in the wake of Westminster may not be known for some time.
We must stand strong in the face of terror and not allow such heinous crimes to divide us National Police Chiefs Council
They added: “We know that events like this can have the potential to trigger short-term rises in hate crime, as we have seen around the EU Referendum.
“Police forces will be carefully monitoring levels of reported hate crimes over the next few days to ensure that we can respond robustly to any increases in intolerance or violence.
“We must stand strong in the face of terror and not allow such heinous crimes to divide us.
“The majority of our communities are standing resilient as people are continuing to go about their lives in safety and security.”
The Home Office said: “We have some of the strongest legislation in the world and have reinforced that with a new action plan focused on reducing hate crime, increasing reporting and improving support for victims.
“The action we are taking is working and more victims are finding the confidence to come forward to report these crimes.”
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The Dean of Westminster, the Very Reverend Dr John Hall, is expected to deliver a message of hope during Wednesday’s service.
He will say: “We pray today for the communities of our United Kingdom, so rich in their diversity, that we may all celebrate what each contributes and that we may live in harmony.
“At a time of sorrow, a time when we are tempted to despair, may we find hope.”
All major faiths and denominations will be represented during Wednesday’s service at the Abbey, which will be attended by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
To report a hate crime you can call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or through a non-traceable online form.