As previously noted on this blog, for the past 12 months reveals a significant, long-term increase in anti-Muslim hate crime in the Greater London area – a trend that has, unfortunately, – . Looking back at the MPS data is particularly useful once it has had a chance to ‘settle’, and most investigations and classifications have concluded – as such, the 12 month retrospective is particularly important. Over the next few weeks and months, the year-old month-by-month data will begin to include the results of the anti-Muslim backlash that followed the murder of Lee Rigby, allowing the public to accurately track the emergence, scale, and distribution of the ‘retributive’ violence and intimidation that followed the murder. As such, it’s worth revisiting what the data tells us about the year as a whole.
In total, reported anti-Muslim hate crimes increased by 65.7% between April 2013 and March 2014, reflecting a significant and arguably sustained growth in anti-Muslim prejudice across the city. Increased levels of hate crime were reported in all but 7 boroughs, often to quite significant degrees. The greatest increase in absolute terms (i.e. number of attacks) was in Lambeth, which had 11 reported Islamophobic hate crimes in 2012/13, and 34 in 2013/14, while the greatest increase as a percentage of the original took place in Wandsworth, which saw a 450% increase in the number of attacks (from ‘only’ 4 in 2012/13 to 22 in the following year). These sorts of increases were not uncommon across the city.
One problem with many such analyses is that they take a relatively small span of time, and then use it to produce a misleadingly high increase in reported incidents. If, for example, in the first short interval a given event is reported once, and in the second interval it is reported twice, then this would indicate a 100% increase in events – but, given the small values at stake, this is not very significant. This does not seem to be the case here – given that increases of hate crime were reported in the significant majority of boroughs over a long period of time and often represent significant increases on baselines. This suggests that the data provided by the MPS is meaningful evidence of a long-term, statistically significant increase in anti-Muslim hate crime.
The increase in reporting of anti-Muslim hate crime is particularly notable when compared to increases in other forms of hate/bias crime. Reported antisemitic crime increased by 6% (from 180 to 191); while there were some dramatic increases in reported crimes (e.g. in Haringey, from 5 to 16, and Hackney, from 32 to 45), there were also some dramatic decreases in reports (e.g. in Westminster, from 20 to 7, and Redbridge, from 16 to 10). Similar trends, with similar increases and decreases occurred in the field of reported homophobic hate crime, which saw a 6% increase (from 1,098 to 1,162), and racial and religious hate crime, which saw a 3% increase (from 9,418 to 9,706). It is unclear whether or not the MPS include Islamophobic crime in this last figure, and Tell MAMA has found that anti-Muslim crimes are sometimes categorised as racist/religious with a specific ‘Islamophobia’ marker. If this is the case, then non-anti-Muslim racist/religious hate crimes saw an overall decrease between 2012/13 and 2013/14.
The point of looking at this comparative data is not to compare different communities’ experience of hate crime, or suggest who ‘has it worst’, but rather to rule out the idea that a dramatic increase in reported anti-Muslim hate crime is part of a police-wide trend. Such a trend might be ascribed either to a greater incidence of hate crime – fuelled by socioeconomic hardship, blaming ‘migrants’ for fewer opportunities and inter-communal tension – or a higher reporting rate, (caused either by greater trust in the police amongst minority groups, or by more effective police outreach). While these factors may explain the small increases seen above, it is nonetheless clear that the increase in anti-Muslim crime is distinctive. This may in turn be ascribed to greater trust in the police and civil society outreach work – indeed, both the MPS and NGOs (non-governmental organisations) like Tell MAMA have been carrying out significant outreach work to encourage reporting. However, it is likely to be in large part due to a greater-incidence of hate crime and tension against Muslims in London. This might be explained by anti-Muslim tensions and sentiments stirred up by the aftermath of the murder of Lee Rigby, amongst other events.
Another point to note is that, when comparing the MPS data with the results of the ONS 2011 census data, areas of high Muslim population tend not to be associated with significant increases in anti-Muslim hate crime. Indeed, several areas of London traditionally associated with larger Muslim populations saw relatively small increases, or even decreases in hate crime over this time. Newham and Waltham Forest, the boroughs with the second and third highest Muslim populations, saw decreases in reported hate crime during this period, albeit both from high initial levels that one might expect given the greater Muslim population there. The explanation for this is unclear (though, based on Tell MAMA’s previous research following the murder of Lee Rigby, it is a trend repeated country-wide), but it does seem clear that small Muslim populations are just as vulnerable to this trend as larger, more visible ones.