New figures released last week show that attacks on Muslims are rising across the UK. Research carried out by NGO MEND was presented to Peers and MPs at a commons event during which politicians voiced concern that Islamophobia is contributing to the radicalization of disaffected young Muslims and is also expected to rise further following the tragic events in Paris.
According to the new research Islamophobic attacks in the UK rose last year. Data gleaned from Freedom of Information requests sent to police forces in England and Wales also shows that in towns with smaller Muslim communities, Muslims are more likely to be the victims of hate crimes.
Islamophobic attacks rose from 5395 in 2014-14 to 5723 in 2014 - 2015 and the true figure is expected to be much higher as the data collected only relates to attacks on victims of Pakistani and Bengali heritage. The research was collated by Muslim engagement organization MEND. Currently only around a quarter of forces in England and Wales record Islamophobic attacks as a specific category, making it difficult to gauge the full scale of the problem. From next year all forces in England and Wales will be required to follow.
In light of the data and the effect the Paris terror attacks are expected to have on British Muslims, a cross party delegation of MPs and Peers called on police forces to do more to tackle the issue which leaves many Muslims feeling alienated and living in fear.
Former Conservative Party Chairman Baroness Warsi commended the report and explained that dealing with Islamophobia will also help tackle radicalization.
"This is a rising problem for all of us in Britain," she said. "It needs to be dealt with in the same way as racism, anti-Semitism and homophobic crime.
"Islamophobia is a driver of radicalisation and at a time when we have a huge commitment to dealing with the issues of violent extremism and radicalization it is the right thing to do to say to communities we all deserve the same protection irrespective of race, religion, sexuality or background. It is also in our collective interest to say that if we are genuine about tackling radicalization then surely one of the drivers of radicalization, which is Islamophobia, should get as much focus as ideology."
At the meeting Labour MP for Ilford North, Wes Streeting, criticized the government's anti-radicalization Prevent strategy and explained that many of his constituents felt excluded by it.
"The Muslim community that the government is working with often feel that things are being done to them rather than with them. We have a shared interest in taking on violent extremism and tackling hate speech. The local communities I represent take this very seriously. When terrorist outrages occur there shouldn't be a special requirement on British Muslims to apologize or be apologists for terrorists. They are no more responsible for what happened on the streets of Paris than anyone else."
And former Metropolitan Police Deputy Assistant Commissioner Lord Brian Paddick welcomed new requirement for better recording of Islamophobia. He called for improved training of officers so they recognize and report Muslim hate crime correctly.
"Unless you really know accurately what the picture is, you can't take the right steps to address it," he explained. "The research quite clearly shows the extent of Muslim hate crime and also a significant increase."
MEND has been instrumental in lobbying for better and more accurate recording of Islamophobic crime.
MEND's CEO, Sufyan Ismail, said: "Our figures, as startling and as stark as they are, are based only on two communities. The real picture is almost certainly far more significant. We welcome the news that Islamophobia will be recorded as a separate category of hate crime but that is just the beginning. In some areas less than half of people who suffer hate crime report it. That's not good enough. Victims need to feel confident to report it and should feel that reporting it will make a difference."