LONDON – Hundreds of anti-Muslim hate offences have been carried out across the country in 2013, with Britain's biggest force, the Metropolitan police, recording an increase of 49% than last year.
"The far right groups, particularly the EDL (English Defence League) perniciously use the internet and social media to promote vast amounts of online hate," Fiyaz Mujhal, director of Faith Matters, which runs the Tell Mama project, told Press Association on Friday, December 27.
According to Mujhal, reaction to the murder of Fusilier Rigby had caused the number of Islamophobic crimes to "significantly jump".
Reports released on Friday found that the Metropolitan Police recorded 500 Islamophobic offences from January to mid-November this year, compared with 336 offences in 2012 and 318 in 2011.
In May alone, the month when two Islamic extremists murdered soldier Lee Rigby in Woolwich, south-east London, Scotland Yard recorded 104 anti-Muslim hate crimes, followed by another 108 in June.
The highest increase of anti-Muslim attacks was found in Greater Manchester Police (GMP), recording nearly double the number of Islamophobic crimes this year, with 130 offences in 2013 compared with 75 in 2012.
GMP's total for this year included a peak of 36 offences in May, the month Fusilier Rigby from Manchester was murdered.
Similar increase was also recorded in Leicestershire, Thames Valley, West Mercia, Cheshire, Merseyside, West Yorkshire and Humberside.
Britain is home to a sizable Muslim minority of nearly 2.7 million.
British Muslims and mosques have been potential targets for dozens of attacks after the killing of a British soldier in Woolwich, south London, last May.
A video showed the attackers, who are Muslim converts of Nigerian origin, blaming British policies for the killing and calling on Britons to remove their government.
British Muslims have condemned the machete killing as contradicting with the basic teachings of Islam.
Yet, the number of anti-Islamic attacks has increased as much as tenfold in the days that followed the Woolwich murder of Drummer Lee Rigby.
Mujhal asserted that tougher sentences were needed to tackle Islamophobic crime, noting that the guidelines by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to monitor social media were "not fit for purpose".
"They raised the bar of prosecution significantly.
"Now unless there is a direct threat to somebody on Twitter or Facebook, the CPS will not prosecute. The CPS is just plainly out of sync with reality.
"We also need more robust sentencing. In one case, a pig's head was left outside a mosque and the perpetrator came away with a community sentence.
"When you target a mosque, you are targeting the whole community."
A Ministry of Justice spokesman described the offences as “despicable crimes that devastate lives and communities”, adding that the numbers receiving custodial sentences for such offences was “higher than ever before”.
A CPS spokeswoman said: “Online communication can be offensive, shocking or in bad taste.
“However, as set out in CPS guidelines on prosecuting cases involving communications sent via social media, content has to be more than simply offensive to be contrary to the criminal law.
“In order to preserve the right to free speech the threshold for prosecution must be high and only communications that are grossly offensive, indecent, obscene or false are prohibited by the legislation.”
Moreover, police forces in Warwickshire, Nottinghamshire, Lancashire, Staffordshire, Cambridgeshire, Suffolk and Norfolk have recorded a sharp increase in anti-Muslim hate crimes.
The Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) has previously said 71 incidents were reported to its national community tension team (NCTT) over five days after Fusilier Rigby was murdered on May 22.
“The police service is committed to reducing the harm caused by hate crime and it is vital that we encourage more victims who suffer crimes to report them to the police or through third party reporting facilities such as Tell Mama,” Superintendent Paul Giannasi, Acpo’s spokesman on hate crime, said.
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