Rising Islamophobia Needs an Effective Criminal Justice Response

Hate crime, regrettably, is on the rise in our country. 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 include Islamophobia have risen by 64.8% in the last year. Incidents such as barging, spitting and assaults directed at the Muslim community are becoming more and more common. Sadly, experiences of harassment and intimidation are becoming part of daily lives for some Muslims.  The emotional, psychological and physical impact on those who experience such hatred and Islamophobia is profound.

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.

Brexit seems to have given legitimacy and a new found voice to racist and Islamophobic narratives. The fact that there was a 57% rise in the number of hate crimes reported in the immediate aftermath of the EU referendum shows that those who may have previously expressed bigoted views online or in closed quarters felt emboldened to take their messages of hate to the streets.  The divisive tone, toxic rhetoric and misleading campaigning material used by some members of the Leave campaign is said to have been a major factor for increase in hate crime.

It is deeply troubling to see the spike in racism and hate crime following the recent referendum. But we know that hate crimes have been prevalent for far longer than this.

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 Hate Crime Action plan focuses on three key themes:

  • preventing hate crime
  • increasing reporting
  • improving responses.

The Muslim community welcomes the new Hate Crime Action plan. In addition to it though, we need a strategic framework and training that provides effective guidance to Police and Crime Commissioners so that progress can be measured with respect to referrals to the CPS. Additionally, front line staff in the criminal justice system must also be trained to recognise religious hatred and respond to victims who have reported a hate crime.

This year, the theme of National Hate Crime Awareness Week is ‘Standing Together’ with all people affected by the horrendous acts of hatred that have happened all around the world. This Friday, Mosques across the country are raising awareness about the rise in hate crime and how to work together to minimize hatred from our society.

By Imam Qari Muhammad Asim
Senior Imam – Makkah Mosque, Leeds

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