Islamophobic hate crimes in March were the highest they’ve been in a year, following shootings in two Christchurch mosques.
The news of the horrific shootings in two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand on 15th March in which fifty people died has fueled a spike in Islamophobic hate crimes in London. The Metropolitan Police recorded 1630 hate offences in March, of which 156 were Islamophobic. This is almost double the number of Islamophobic hate crimes recorded in February, and the rise has been attributed to reactions to the shootings in New Zealand. Meanwhile, there are reports that anti-Muslim hate has increased six-fold
It is upsetting that an attack in which Muslims were the victims has spiked further violence towards Muslims. However, we have warned about the rise in far-right extremism and how these crimes embolden and inspire others to carry out copy-cat attacks. The events in Christchurch made it very clear that Islamophobia is alive and well, and have served as a stark and unpleasant reminder of its presence here, too.
Hate Crime in Public Spaces
One concerning element of these racist or religious hate crimes is the fact that often, the crimes take place in public, visible spaces. Several reports of abuse are from experiences of street harassment or attacks on public transport. The BBC reports a man being subject to racist mocking on a tube train and a woman having her hijab pulled off by someone at a train station. The fact that perpetrators of hate crimes are confident enough and able to harass and abuse people in public spaces is worrying. Why are people so unashamed or unconcerned about the consequences of their actions?
In British society there tends to be an over-concern with regards to respecting the privacy of others, to the extent that bystanders do not feel able to help in problematic situations as they are ‘minding their own business’ and do not help someone in need of support.
One way you can lend support to someone who is being verbally abused is simply to stand or sit near them so they do not feel totally alone. You could even ask them for directions, or engage them in other unrelated conversation to divert from the intentions of their harasser. Safety is important: an aggressive or confrontational approach may aggravate the situation and put you or the victim in danger. But there are ways in which you can be an active bystander; there is safety in numbers, and by standing with someone who is alone, you may be able to improve the situation. You can also report incidents of hate crime to the relevant authorities, or alert someone who can help, for example transport staff that may be nearby.
Another important way of tackling hate crime starts at a much more foundational level; education about Islamophobia and other forms of hate crime and prejudice needs to be effectively delivered to people from a young age. The more we open up the conversation about hate crime, the more equipped we will be as a society to prevent and deal with attacks and harassment.
Education is one of the main tools we use here at JAN Trust to tackle hate crime and discrimination. Despite the rising levels of hate crime in our city, we are not discouraged and continue to spread the word and encourage young people to learn about it. Our Another Way Forward programme works with local young people to teach them the signs of radicalisation, far-right movements and Islamophobia, equipping them with the knowledge they need to help protect their communities from harm. Our SAFE school sessions also work to educate young people about the risks of hateful ideology..
JAN Trust is turning 30 this year! Click here to find out how you can celebrate with us by helping support our work in the fight against hate crime and discrimination.