About a week ago, an Essex based male made threats to attack mosques on-line and was reported into Tell MAMA and in August 2013, Geoffrey Ryan, 44, of Brick Kiln Way, threw a smoke grenade through the window of the Al Falah mosque in Silks Way, Braintree and shouted threats whilst brandishing two kitchen knives in May 2013. This was in response to the murder of Lee Rigby in May 2013. Clearly the murder of 30-year-old Saudi national, Nahid Almanea weighs heavy on the minds of many and we are yet to see whether the murder was related to anti-Muslim hate, nonetheless, a picture is emerging from our data in Tell MAMA of the perpetrators of anti-Muslim hate being mainly male and between the ages of 17-40.
Sadly, on-line and off-line Islamophobic hate incidents and crimes into our project seem to show that a majority of the victims of these incidents are Muslim women and at a street level, it is visible Muslim women who are targeted for abuse, spitting and occasionally, assaults. Month after month of MET hate crime data over the last five months has shown that Islamophobic hate crimes when compared month by month between 2013 and 2014, show higher levels of reporting in across London Boroughs. The MET hate crime data releases also show that areas with high concentrations of Muslim residents are also not immune to raised levels of reported Islamophobic related hate crimes. The assumption made by some is that there may be 'strength in numbers' and that hate crimes may be lower in those areas. The MET data does not seem to support this assumption.
Taking into account the possibility that police forces may have conducted hate crime awareness drives in these London boroughs and the fact that charities working in this area may have added to the community awareness around reporting in anti-Muslim hate, we would expect a spike in reporting and then a downturn. What the MET figures show is that there are consistently higher levels of Islamophobic hate crimes in London when compared to 2013 figures and they remain stubbornly high in comparison to last year. We mapped some of this data and the information when displayed visually, shows an unsettling picture, even in our diverse capital.
After the murder of Lee Rigby, Tell MAMA was the only agency reporting that there was a spike in anti-Muslim hate related incidents and that we were receiving these reports straight after the brutal murder of Lee Rigby. They included off-line (street based) and on-line cases. Some two weeks later, the MET confirmed that there was a spike in anti-Muslim hate crimes that were being reported to them. In 2013, a set of Freedom of Information requests by the Associated Press and highlighted in the Guardian, brought out the fact that hate crimes had soared across over 20 forces that had responded back. Allied to this has been the fragmentation of the English Defence League and the emergence of new and more virulent forms of Far Right activism through groups like Britain First who have entered into mosques and cynically filmed degrading scenes where they berate senior citizens in the mosques. Britain First has been involved in mosque 'invasions' (their term, not ours) in Bradford, Tower Hamlets and more recently, in Luton.
We within Tell MAMA will be releasing an analysis of our 2013/2014 data, received from victims, (and which has been independently analysed by Teesside University), within the next three weeks. It will show, once again, that whilst the number of Far Right activists implicated in anti-Muslim hate incidents reported to us has dropped, a small number of Far Right activists are causing a disproportionate impact in terms of anti-Muslim hate incidents. The vast majority of the street based incidents involve males as the perpetrators, with a majority of victims being Muslim females. A majority of the victims are also aged between 21-40.
The real impact of such hate incidents cannot be measured apart from the impact on the victim. Yet such incidents have a strong impact on the communities being targeted, on their self-perceptions around identity and sometimes in re-enforcing what 'they' are and what 'we are.' There are clearly long term implications for cohesion and for community relations and that is why, as we move forward, we call for Police and Crime Commissioners and police forces across the country to place anti-Muslim hate at the heart of their hate crime strategies.
No longer can tackling anti-Muslim hate be an appendage or an after-thought on hate crime strategies and it must be placed front and centre with other protected strands so that citizens of our country, who happen to be Muslim, can live their lives free from bigotry, intolerance and hate targeted at them. It is the least that we would expect for anyone of us and it should be no different for Muslim communities across the UK.