UK Prime Minister David Cameron has announced that anti-Muslim hate crimes are to be recorded as a separate category by police in England and Wales, bringing Islamophobia in line with anti-Semitic attacks targeting Jews, British newspaper The Independent reported on Tuesday.
The first-ever move was announced as the Home Office prepared to unveil new statistics that are expected to show a rise in numbers of hate crimes over the past year, continuing the trend seen in 2013-14, when offences involving religious hatred soared by 45% and race hate crime by 4% in the wake of the murder of soldier Lee Rigby on May 22, 2013.
“I want British Muslims to know we shall back them to stand against those who spread hate, and to counter the narrative that says Muslims do not feel British,” PM Cameron said in a statement. “I want police to take more action against those who persecute others simply because of their religion.”
The move comes with the government due to publish a counter-extremism strategy soon, which would detail proposals for tackling radical ideologies which ministers argue put people on the path to violence, but which others say risk curbing free speech.
Cameron also announced that he would provide new funding to boost security at religious buildings, as he hosted the first meeting of a new Community Engagement Forum at Downing Street. The meeting would also consider what more the authorities could do to help support young British Muslims.
The forum brings together representatives of different faiths, including Islam, from around the country, and is intended to provide the premier with an opportunity to hear directly from those challenging extremism in the community.
Announcing its creation in a speech in Birmingham in July, PM Cameron said it was part of a drive to isolate extremists and “actively encourage reforming and moderate voices” in Muslim communities.
Britain saw a sharp rise in the number of hate crimes recorded by police last year, with the vast bulk of offences motivated by race, official figures showed. There were 52,528 hate crimes in the 12 months to March, up 18% on the year before, with the Home Office suggesting that the increase was due to more victims coming forward and police becoming better at identifying such offences.
Hate crimes are defined as a criminal offence that the victim believes was motivated by a personal characteristic such as race, religion or disability.
Separate government figures based on statistics over the last three years from the annual crime survey, which collates figures from interviews with the public, suggested that there were an estimated 222,000 hate crimes on average per year.
PM Cameron said the rise was unacceptable, adding that Karen Bradley said they would develop a new action plan to try to stop them.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 14th, 2015.