This report is going to address the issue of Religious Hate crime (RHC), specifically Islamophobia. A hate incident is defined as ‘any criminal offence which is perceived, by the victim or any other person, to be motivated by a hostility or prejudice based on…’ (in the case of RHC) ‘…a person’s religious faith or perceived religious faith’ (The College of Policing’s Hate Crime Operational Guidance 2014). When hate incidents become criminal offences (i.e. something which breaks the law of the land) they are known as hate crimes, for example assault, harassment, or criminal damage. Hate crime serves to send out a message to the victim and the wider community to which the victim belongs that they are not liked or welcome. Typically, victims of hate crime are those who belong to groups with negative stereotypes and stigma attached to their identity, often seen as a threat to society.
The term ‘Islamophobia’ was coined by the Runnymede Trust in the 1997 report, ‘Islamophobia: Still a Challenge for Us All’, the first major report on anti-Muslim attacks, which has since been updated in 2004 and again in 2018. Islamophobia is generally defined as “the dislike of or prejudice against Muslims”. However, the Runnymede foundation created a more comprehensive definition in their 2018 report and emphasise the importance of defining Islamophobia in order to confront the issue, as it is “…a mechanism that leads to accountability” (Runnymede Islamophobia report):
“Islamophobia is any distinction, exclusion, or restriction towards, or preference against, Muslims (or those perceived to be Muslims) that has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life.”
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This report will begin by highlighting the scale and scope of the issue in England and Wales, and will then use theories to make sense of it as a social and criminological issue. Next, this report will provide an overview of the different policies that have been implemented to tackle this issue and support victims. Thereafter, this report will set out some recommendations for what the future of policy should look like, before concluding by summarising key points that have been discussed throughout.
The nature and extent of Islamophobia in England and Wales
In 2018/19, 103,379 hate crime offences were recorded by the police. This was an increase of 10% in comparison to the previous year 2017/18 (where 94,098 hate crimes were recorded) and a continuation of the upward trend shown from the year 2012/13, with the number of recorded hate crimes having doubled since then. The number of offences per hate crime strand were recorded as follows:
- 78,991 race hate crimes
- 14,491 sexual orientation hate crimes
- 8,566 religious hate crimes
- 8,256 disability hate crimes
- 2,333 transgender hate crimes
These statistics highlight that RHC remains the 3rd highest of 5 strands of hate crime in England and Wales, and the number of reported RHCs is increasing along with hate crime generally. Islamophobia is a significant type of RHC to address as more than half of the rising number of RHCs reported to the police are now specifically targeted at Muslims or individuals perceived to be Muslims (Home Office, 2018) for example those from other faiths who are sometimes misidentified as Muslims, such as Sikhs. Additionally, Tell MAMA (Measuring Anti-Muslim Attacks), the leading response and support service for victims of anti-Muslim hatred and Islamophobia in the UK, highlighted a record number of anti-Muslim attacks since 2011 in their 2017 annual report ‘Beyond the Incident’. In their 2018 report, ‘Normalising Hatred’, it was stated that records show Islamophobia is still a ‘significant social and political issue in the UK’ and Muslim communities feel that it is becoming ‘more prominent, visible and vocal.’