Call for action after rise in religious hate crime incidents

Cases of religious hate crime have risen in Nottinghamshire in the wake of recent terrorist attacks and the EU referendum.

The latest Home Office data showed a 37 per cent increase in the number of hate crimes reported to the police, where religion was a motivating factor.

Religious hate crime incidents have risen in the last year. Photo: PA

Religious hate crime incidents have risen in the last year. Photo: PA

Between April 2017 and March 2018, 93 incidents were recorded by Nottinghamshire Police, up from 68 the previous year.

While police force figures do not break down crimes by religion, across England and Wales more than half of the hate crime reported was against Muslims.

The Home Office report explains there were spikes in Islamophobic hate crime after recent terrorist attacks.

The time period includes the Manchester Arena terror attack and the London Bridge attack.

Five people also died in a terror attack outside Parliament just before the start of this latest 12-month recording period.

In Nottinghamshire, the total number of recorded hate crime incidents has more than doubled in the last five years.

This is partly because of improvements in the way crimes are recorded, but there have been spikes after events such as the Brexit referendum and the terrorist attacks.

The majority of hate crime reported to the police was racist incidents, which increased by 20 per cent to 1,176 in the latest figures.

The number of incidents where disability was a motivating factor rose slightly from 84 to 89.

Fiyaz Mughal, founder of Tell Mama, a project which measures anti-Muslim attacks, said he was ‘not surprised’ by the findings.

He said: “There has been a perfect storm of the political mainstreaming of Islamophobia, terrorist attacks, the rise of the far right and abuse that’s allowed on social media.

“Social media companies have come a long way, however, they need to get quicker at banning people who post anti-Muslim content.”

Mr Mughal believes the key is educating children from an early age to be tolerant to other religions.

He continued: “According to our data, the most common age group of people committing Islamophobic hate crime are aged 13 to 18.

“This is why working with teachers and schools is so important.”

Anti-Semitism was the second most common type of religious hate crime.

Marie van der Zyl, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, said the figures ‘must serve as an urgent call to action’.

She said: “All of us – faith leaders, politicians, and the media – should today step up our efforts to stamp out this cancer in our society.

“The Jewish community will continue to work in solidarity with Muslims and people of all faiths.

“We cannot let Britain become a place where a hijab or a kippah marks someone out as a target.”

The Community Safety Trust, which reports anti-Semitic incidents, said the figures showed a “significant over-representation of Jews as the target for hate crimes”.

Hate crimes and incidents are defined as those perceived to be motivated by hostility or prejudice based on a personal characteristic.

Five strands are monitored centrally – race or ethnicity, religion or beliefs, sexual orientation, disability and transgender identity.

Ahead of the release of the statistics, the Government published a refreshed strategy for tackling hate crime.

The Law Commission will carry out a review to explore how to make current legislation more effective and consider if there should be additional ‘protected characteristics’ to cover offences motivated by, or demonstrating, hatred based on sex and gender characteristics, or hatred of older people.

In another step outlined in the blueprint, taxi drivers and door staff will be given guidance on spotting hate crime.