Mosques and Imams across the UK dedicated Friday 14 October Khutbah to the Hate Crime Awareness Week . Imams focused on raising awareness about the growing level of hate crime generally, and in particular Islamophobia and Anti-Muslim hatred. They looked at how the Muslim community can build resilience to hate and stand in solidarity with all victims of this crime.
Brexit seems to have legitimised hatred towards minorities but the Muslim community has been on the receiving end of hatred for decades now. Anti-Muslim hate monitoring group Tell MAMA reported a 326 per cent increase in incidents against Muslims in 2015. In 2015/16, the Crown Prosecution Service completed 15,442 hate crime prosecutions, the highest number to date. According to the Metropolitan Police, hate crimes, which includes Islamophobia, have risen by 64.8 per cent in the last year.
Imam Qari Asim MBE said “Britain is one of the most tolerant countries and hate crimes against individuals because of their race, religious belief, sexual orientation or disability are restricted to margins of society. However, verbal abuse, online and off-line, as well as physical assaults against minority groups, in particular Muslims, have become more common now. And that’s not a sign of a healthy society.”
Imam Umar Hayat Qadri at Ghausia Mosque & Suffah Foundation, Huddersfield said “Muslims are not the first community to be demonised. The same rhetoric that was once used to create fear of and resentment toward Jews is now being used against Muslims. We must learn from history to stop all form of hatred towards the ‘other’.”
While the overtly Islamophobic incidents are characterised as opportunistic or random because they do not appear to be the product of careful planning or deliberation, the increasing frequency and intensity of these incidents closely correlates with the escalating use of anti-Muslim motifs by some populist groups.
Imam Syed Zafarullah Shah reminded his congregation at Hazrat Sultan Bahu Trust Birmingham of the horrible consequences of hatred: “These hate crimes do not only impact on people’s lives, they can also scar them for life. Anti-Muslim hatred is not only limited to verbal abuse but it has also taken lives. Mohammad Saleem from Birmingham and Mohsin Ahmed from Rotherham were murdered because of their Muslim identity.”
In July this year, the government launched a series of measures to tackle growing hate crime. At the launch of the Hate Crime Action Plan, the Home Secretary called on communities across Britain to “come together and stand united against those who use hate to divide us”. The Muslim community has welcomed the new Hate Crime Action plan, and hopes that the front line staff in the criminal justice system can be trained to recognise religious hatred and respond effectively to victims who have reported a hate crime. British Muslims also hope that the media and politicans can play their respective parts in ensuring that no group in our country is demonised on account of their origin, religious belief or cultural nuances.