Race and religious hate crime have increased by more than a quarter in the past year, a new report from London's police force has found.
Statistics released by the Metropolitan Police service compare offences reported between April 1, 2014 and March 31, 2015, with those reported in the previous financial year. They reveal that race and religious hate crimes, incidents where the offender demonstrated hostility based on the victim's membership of a racial or religious group, have risen by 25.7 per cent in the capital.
The Met has attributed this rise to an increase in awareness of and willingness to report hate crime, as well as the support of more than 500 specialist investigators.
However, other statistics available from the London force show that in March of this year, there were 73 specifically Islamophobic crimes, compared to 36 in March 2014 – an increase of more than 100 per cent.
Anti-Semitic crimes have also jumped from 29 in March 2014, to 41 in March 2015; a 41.4 per cent rise.
Anti-Muslim sentiment is also believed to have increased in the UK, particularly with the rise of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and following the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris this January. Anti-Islamist group Pegida has reached over 20,000 likes on its UK Facebook page, and around 400 supporters attended a protest in Newcastle on February 28. Fewer than 100 attended a similar protest in London earlier this month, and were met by anti-fascist counter demonstrations.
A posthumous book by the former editor of Charlie Hebdo was released yesterday, condemning Islamophobia as just another form of racism. Stephane Charbonnier, Charb, was killed in the January 7 attack on the satirical newspaper's offices. Just two days earlier, he had completed an essay titled "Letter to the Islamophobia swindlers who play into the hands of racists".
He argued that "Muslimophobia" would be a better term, as people are not necessarily afraid of Islam, but of its followers. "A lot of those who campaign against Islamophobia don't actually do it to defend Muslims as individuals, but to defend Prophet Mohammed's religion," Charbonnier wrote.
He also suggested that the media are to blame for increasing tensions and pandering to anti-Muslim thought. "Any scandal that contains the word 'Islam' in its title sells. A terrorist is scary, but if you add that he's an Islamist, everyone wets themselves."
Following the release of the Met's figures yesterday, deputy assistant commissioner for territorial policing, Mark Simmons, said: "We are not complacent and acknowledge there is still much hard work to do. We will continue to keep up our intensified focus on areas such as violence with injury where we have seen a rise in recorded offences.
"I hope that Londoners will gain confidence from the improvements we have achieved and I'd like to assure them of our continuing commitment to making the capital an even safer place to live, work in, and visit."