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Woolwich murder: 200 Islamophobic incidents since killing

Sharp rise in reported cases, including attacks on 10 mosques, raises fears of sustained targeting of Muslim communities

Fears that Muslim communities across the country are facing a sustained wave of attacks and intimidation have intensified after it emerged that almost 200 Islamophobic incidents had been reported since the murder of British soldier Drummer Lee Rigby in Woolwich, south-east London, last week.

That number includes attacks on 10 mosques and follows a weekend of protests by far-right groups, the largest of which saw hundreds of English Defence League supporters stage a protest outside Downing Street that ended with bottles being thrown and 13 arrests. Four men have been charged with offences including possession of a bladed article, possession of class A drugs and public order offences following the EDL protest and a counter demonstration.

The Tell Mama hotline for recording Islamophobic incidents said 193 incidents had been reported by Monday evening, with more expected to come in. Before the death of Rigby, the service recorded an average of three or four incidents a day.

In Grimsby on Tuesday, two men reported to be former soldiers were remanded in custody at the town’s magistrates court after a mosque was petrol bombed. Stuart Harness, 33, and Gavin Humphries, 37, were charged with arson with intent to endanger life. No pleas were entered and the pair are due to appear at Grimsby crown court next month.

The Tell Mama co-ordinator, Fiyaz Mughal, from Faith Matters, said he feared there would be an escalation in attacks on Muslim communities. “These things are cumulative and I do not see an end to this cycle of violence,” said Mughal. “There is an underlying Islamophobia in our society and the horrendous events in Woolwich have brought this to the fore and inflamed the situation.”

The latest round of Islamophobic attacks came as counter-terrorism police launched an investigation at a prison in east Yorkshire after three Muslim inmates assaulted two prison officers and held one of them hostage.

The police and the Ministry of Justice would not comment on the motive for the attack at Full Sutton prison on Sunday, but a spokeswoman for the north-east counter-terrorism unit said it was leading the investigation “given the potential nature of the incident”.

“t will take time to establish the full details,” the terrorism unit said. “The motivation behind this incident is for the investigation to establish and is one of a number of lines of inquiry.”

Officials said none of the inmates involved were serving time for terrorism-related offences. Michael Spurr, chief executive of the National Offender Management Service, said: “This was a serious incident and my first thought is with the officer who was taken hostage – we will do all we can to help him recover from this experience.” Both of the prison officers have been discharged from hospital.

Police were also investigating graffiti daubed on two privately funded war memorials in central London. The word “Islam” was quickly covered up after the graffiti was discovered early on Monday at the RAF Bomber Command memorial in Green Park and the Animals in War memorial in nearby Hyde Park.

Meanwhile, online activists Anonymous announced on Tuesday they were planning to attack the EDL.

The hacking collective that has become known around the world for a series of high-profile hacks and distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks on government, religious and corporate websites, said it was planning to kick off its campaign by publishing details of the far-right group’s supporters and donors.

In a statement accompanying the launch of #OpEDL, Anonymous claimed the EDL had attempted to exploit the events in Woolwich to spread division and persecute innocent Muslims.

“[You] have used this as another excuse to further spread your campaign of hate, bigotry, and misinformation. Under the guise of national pride you have instigated crimes against the innocent and incited the subjugation of Muslims,” it said.

The statement added: “We will not allow your injustices, your lies, and your stupidity, to further radicalise our youth into fearing and despising their fellow man … We do not forgive, we do not forget. Expect us !”

A 50-year-old man who was arrested in Welling, south-east London, on Monday on suspicion of conspiracy to murder, in connection with the death of Rigby, has been bailed, the Metropolitan police said night.

Attacks on Muslims: numbers in detail

Statistics about so-called ‘reprisal attacks’ are being widely circulated. We attempt to understand the scale of the targeting of British Muslims following the Woolwich attack

Mona Chalabi
guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 28 May 2013 14.56 BST
The East London Mosque in Whitechapel. English Defence League supporters clashed with local youths in the area last year.

It’s been almost a week since the murder of Drummer Lee Rigby in Woolwich. During that time, many have considered the consequences of the two attackers’ actions for Britain’s crime policy, its foreign policy and its media.

Those who have discussed a risk of escalating violence in the wake of the attack have cited various statistics about Islamophobic incidents.

We’ve examined the statistics available in the wake of the terrible events of Woolwich, what they mean, and the wider picture on hate crime across the country.

Faith Matters, an organisation working to reduce extremism and interfaith tensions, has been one of the most cited sources for those who have noted an increase in anti-Muslim activity.

Their site features a statement on the 162 calls received since Wednesday, up from a daily average of between four and six. To report these numbers, Faith Matters have drawn upon one of their pre-existing projects, Tell MAMA, whose name is an acronym explaining what they do, Measuring Anti-Muslim Attacks.

In its first 12 months since launching in March 2012, Tell MAMA reported that there had been 632 anti-Muslim hate incidents, 58% of which were against women. If reliable, Tell MAMA’s reports over the past week represent a 15-fold increase on last year’s average.

They have also recorded ten attacks against mosques since Wednesday as shown below. These incidents, which have occurred across the UK, include smashed windows, attempted arson and, in the case of Cardiff’s Shah Jalal mosque, bacon being left outside.

What these numbers mean

There’s several things to say about these figures. Their strength is that this is not a one-off reporting project set up in the wake of a high-profile incident: we have a background figure of abuse recorded by Faith Matters – of around 28 to 42 calls a week.

The second is that 162 calls in a few days is a very sharp increase, representing several weeks of incidents in normal time. It must be noted, however, that this may also reflect a higher level of reporting of incidents, and a higher national awareness of the project.

It’s perhaps worth looking in more depth at how Tell MAMA collect these numbers, and how they differ from official crime statistics.

Reliability

Individuals are able to report Islamophobic incidents in a number of ways: by filling in an online form, phoning their helpline, sending a text, email, tweet or message via Facebook. It’s not clear how these reports are verified but Tell MAMA does explain how they classify attacks which include anti-Muslim graffiti, verbal threats and physical attacks against people or property.

Where, some may ask, are the official statistics on this? Well, Fiyaz Mughal, co-ordinator of Tell MAMA has claimed that “police frequently fail to take victim statements” adding that “few police forces even bother to record Islamophobia as part of their reporting systems”.

Though they might not specifically analyse Islamophobia, in September 2012, the Home Office released statistics on hate crime in England and Wales for the first time. These offences are defined as those:

committed against a person or property that is motivated by hostility towards someone based on their disability, race, religion, gender-identity or sexual orientation, whether perceived to be so by the victim or any other person.

The advantage of these statistics is also their greatest weakness – where classification is difficult, a single incident can be placed in multiple categories (e.g. race and religion) – which means some are double-counted.

Nevertheless, the official statistics do show that the largest category by far was race hate crime, where 35,816 incidents were recorded. Fewer hate crimes were motivated by hostility towards religion (1,621) – a similar amount to those against disability (1,744). Across all categories, most crimes involved violence against the person – this was the case for 75% of religious hate crimes, while 19% involved criminal damage.

Trends

Regional differences were also visible in these numbers. Leicestershire had the highest proportion of hate crimes per 1,000 reported crimes and also had the highest proportion of religion hate crimes, followed by London where there were 1.28 hate crimes per 1,000 population compared to a national average of 0.8.

Unfortunately, because this last year was the first that the Home Office published data of this kind, it’s not possible to make accurate historical comparisons. However a previous dataset, released in March 2012, does contain some fascinating detail. It shows that of those with an identified religion, Muslims were the most likely to be victims of religion hate crime. 2,167 Muslims aged 16 and over were victims of hate crime between 2009 and 2011.

Other victim trends include the fact that those aged 16-24 are most at risk of becoming victims of hate crime. Similarly, those in the ethnic group ‘Asian or Asian British’ were the most likely to be victims of hate crime – 2.1% of adults compared to an average of 0.5%. 3% of all crime recorded in the British Crime Survey were identified as hate crime – though this rose to 6% of all assaults with minor injury.
smalltellmama Source: Tell MAMA. Click to enlarge.

Of all incidents recorded by Tell MAMA in the 12 months up to March this year, 54% were linked to members of the far right – namely British National Party and English Defence League (EDL) supporters. The EDL, who staged a protest on Monday blaming Islam for last week’s brutal killing, are not outlawed in the UK.

While campaigning for the election in 2010, David Cameron did however state “The EDL are terrible people, we would always keep these groups under review and if we needed to ban them, we would ban them or any groups which incite hatred”.

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