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Treating anti Muslim hatred seriously

Treating anti Muslim hatred seriously

Categories: Latest News

Wednesday November 12 2014

The Daily Express reports on a letter jointly issued by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles, and the Community Security Trust to Leaders of Local Authorities concerning “Offensive and detrimental material”. 

The letter is prompted, it makes clear, by the rise in the number of anti-Semitic incidents recorded by the CST and reminds local authorities of their statutory obligations in relation to graffiti and other acts of racist vandalism. 

The letter stands in stark contrast to a letter sent by Pickles to the Muslim Council of Britain last summer following a spate of serious attacks on British Muslims including murder, arson and instances of Islamophobic graffiti in the aftermath of the murder of Drummer Lee Rigby. 

In his letter, Pickles notes there was a sharp increase in the number of anti-Semitic incidents this summer, during Israel’s bombardment of Gaza, with 302 incidents recorded in July alone. 

In comparison, no statistics were mentioned in his letters in July 2013 and August 2013 to Muslim organisations and the Muslim Council of Britain respectively on Islamophobic incidents despite the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, noting an eightfold increase in attacks on Muslims in London alone in the two weeks after Drummer Lee Rigby’s murder. 

The significant rise in Islamophobic incidents last year became further apparent through a Freedom of Information request submitted by the Press Association to all police forces in England and Wales enquiring about the number of anti-Muslim hate crimes and incidents.

The Metropolitan Police Service disclosed that it recorded 500 Islamophobic crimes in London alone however, available figures on anti-Muslim hate crime nationally could be significantly higher given the vast under-reporting of hate crime. Moreover, only 24 of 43 forces disclosed results in response to the FOI so a fair assessment across the country cannot be discerned though for the forces which did disclose figures, in some cases recorded incidents doubled. 

In his letter, Pickles goes on to highlight that a “particularly pernicious expression of antisemitism and other forms of hatred is the daubing of slogans or symbols, via graffiti or the fixing of stickers and posters, onto both public and private property.” 

He added “We would like to remind you that under sections 48, 49, 50 and 52 of the Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003 (as amended) local authorities have the powers to swiftly remove any physical sign of hatred on any property in order to minimise the risk of increased tensions. 

“It is also incumbent upon local councils that instances of antisemitic and racist daubings are recorded and reported to the police. In these cases it is important to liaise quickly and closely with the police before removing the daubing, and any materials used, to ensure that evidence is not destroyed.” 

Yet in his letter to the MCB in the wake of the Tipton, Walsall and Wolverhampton bomb attacks and the spate of graffiti incidents, Pickles made no effort to emphasise the same level of due diligence required by local authorities and the police. 

Despite these incidents posing life-threatening risks to the Muslim community, in particular the planning of the Tipton nail bomb which was set to detonate during the Friday prayer, Pickles merely issued a statement that highlighted his “support for the police in responding” without elaborating further on statutory obligations and good practice. 

Moreover, while Pickles informs local authority leaders that “Hate crime can be reported to the police through normal channels, or through the True Vision website”, he failed to mention in his letter to the MCB the existence of the same channel, the True Vision website, for Muslims to report hate crime. 

Instead, Pickles drew attention to feel-good initiatives such as the Big Iftar and referred to security advice offered to Islamic institutions with no mention of the responsibilities of statutory authorities to record and report any instances of targeted abuse and hate crime. 

In his letter on anti-Semitic hate crime, Pickles states “We must all continue to stand unified against all forms of hatred be it antisemitism, anti-Muslim hatred, racism or homophobia, whatever its manifestation, whether it is expressed on social media, as a physical attack as a verbal threat, or in any other manner.” 

It is disappointing to see the disparity in approaches to tackling anti-Muslim hate crime compared to anti-Semitism. Last year, the MCB claimed in a statement criticising reticence to label the murder of Mohammed Saleem Khan an ‘Islamophobic’ incident saying, “There are many lessons to be drawn from this case: the response of the authorities, and our collective unwillingness to treat anti-Muslim hatred seriously.” 

From the letter issued by the Communities Secretary, not only have these lessons not been drawn but there is still a “collective unwillingness to treat anti-Muslim hatred seriously.”

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