Islamophobic crimes rise across East London Line boroughs in the wake of the Lee Rigby killing


An English Defense League march

The rate of islamophobic related offences across ELL boroughs have risen significantly in the 12 months leading up to August 2013, according to figures released by the Metropolitan Police.

A spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police confirmed that their logs have seen an increase in Islamophobic hate crimes following the murder of Lee Rigby, but they believe that levels are now returning to ‘normal.’

Croydon and Tower Hamlets saw the most significant rises in crimes against Muslim residents, tripling in Croydon from just four offences last year to 13 and in Tower Hamlets increasing from an already high 22 to 37 logged crimes.

Lewisham and Hackney saw smaller rises. Cases in Lewisham increased from 13 cases to 15 in Hackney Islamophobic crimes grew from eight to 12.

The Metropolitan Police define an Islamophobic offence as any offence, which is perceived to be Islamophobic by the victim, or any other person, that is intended to impact upon those known or perceived to be Muslim.

They said: “We want London’s Muslim communities to know that the MPS takes all hate crime seriously. We want communities to have the confidence to come forward and report hate-crime when it happens.”

Fiyaz Mughal, director of Tell Mama, a group monitoring anti-Muslim attacks in the UK, is unsurprised by the rise in Met figures in east London boroughs.

He said:  “We have picked up cases of anti-Muslim prejudice in boroughs which have significant Muslim residents as well as in areas where there are very small numbers of Muslim residents.”

“This also shows that anti-Muslim prejudice is not specific to areas and is unfortunately found in a variety of areas in our country, with some key hotspots.”

After the death of Lee Rigby on May 22 this year, there was a spike in far-right activity by groups such as the English Defense League (EDL), who attempted various marches against Islam across the country. One of which was in Tower Hamlets this September.

A council spokesperson for Tower Hamlets said: “There is no place for hate in Tower Hamlets and across all religions, partner organisations and community groups there is unanimity in the belief that by working together we can build a strong and cohesive community.”

The Tower Hamlets Council have been implementing strategies to stand up to hate crime, including the No Place for Hate initiative which works with local partners including the police and Inter Faith Forum in order to, “offer leadership, advice and reassurance over incidents such as the activities of the EDL and in the wake of the murder of Lee Rigby in neighbouring Woolwich earlier this year.”

London Assembly member Jeanette Arnold said: “This is 2013 and, frankly, the people carrying out these attacks should know better. I abhor verbal or physical attacks on anybody at any time, but it is even more inexcusable when people are attacked on account of their religious beliefs.”

As a member of the London Assembly, Arnold sits on the Police and Crime committee and has regular contact with her constituency’s councils, which include Hackney.

She said: “I will be raising this issue directly, and I urge the Mayor to take immediate action to ensure that Islamophobic attacks are taken seriously by the police and the instigators are held accountable for their actions to the full extent of the law.”

Councillor Janet Daby, Cabinet Member for Community Safety in Lewisham, acknowledges that there was a spike in offences in the immediate aftermath of Rigby’s death but said: “We do not believe this small increase in the figure represents a growing trend – it is a reaction to an extreme event.”

This week marks Hate Crime Awareness Week across the UK, aiming to tackle hate crime through local events and with support of their authorities.

Daby said: “This week, during Hate Crime Awareness Week, we are increasing our efforts and encourage anyone who is the victim of hate crime to report it at one of the borough’s many reporting centres.”

Croydon Council were unavailable to comment on this issue.

Despite the significant increase in Islamophobic crimes, Lewisham, Tower Hamlets, Croydon and Hackney all saw a fall in the number of overall crimes committed in their boroughs.

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