The number of anti-Muslim hate crimes reported across Britain increased by 593% in the week after a white supremacist killed worshippers at two New Zealand mosques, an independent monitoring group has said.
The charity Tell Mama said almost all of the increase comprised incidents linked to the Christchurch attacks last Friday, and there had been more recorded hate incidents in the last seven days than in the week after the 2017 Islamist terrorist attack in Manchester.
According to figures passed to the Guardian, 95 incidents were reported to the charity between 15 March, the day of the New Zealand atrocity, and midnight on 21 March. Of those, 85 incidents – 89% of the total – contained direct references to the New Zealand attacks and featured gestures such as mimicking firearms being fired at Muslims.
The news will alarm community groups who may have expected extremists to lie low after the massacre of 50 Muslims in Christchurch, which drew widespread condemnation around the world.
The week-on-week rise in the number of hate crimes directed at Muslims was greater than in the week after the 2016 vote for Britain to leave the EU, and the second biggest weekly increase recorded since 2012 by Tell Mama, which works to encourage reporting of anti-Muslim hate crimes and cooperates closely with the police.
In the last seven days, Muslims in Oxford, Southampton and Colindale, north London, have reported gun gestures or firearms noises being directed at them. In Colindale on Thursday, a mother walking with her daughter reported four youths making gun gestures. In Oxford earlier this week, a woman wearing a hijab said a man made noises mimicking a gun.
Verbal abuse directed at Muslims in London in separate incidents is alleged to have included shouts of “you need to be shot”, “you deserve it” and “Muslims must die”.
Incidents were reported in Scotland, where a mosque was attacked; in Stanwell, Surrey, where police declared the stabbing of a teenager to be a suspected far-right terror attack; and in Lancashire. Meanwhile in Birmingham, police continue to hunt for those behind sledgehammer attacks on five mosques.
Iman Atta, the director of Tell Mama, said the figures showed a troubling rise. “This shows that some people see Muslims as fair game for hate and it is now clear that we have an ongoing and persistent ideology of hate that is generating a focus on Muslims,” he said. “Muslims in New Zealand were killed and British Muslims feel the anger of bigots. It is perverse.”
Most of the incidents recorded by Tell Mama were carried out in person rather than online. Perpetrators either thought they would not be caught or were so emboldened that they were not concerned about possible consequences, according to the charity.
Of the 85 incidents linked directly to the New Zealand shooting, 40 were online abuse and 45 were carried out in person.
The real figures are likely to be higher. Only some hate crimes incidents are reported, with victims often feeling there is no point complaining.
Furthermore, the figures count only abuse directed at Muslims who then report it to a charity well known in Britain’s Muslim communities. Incidents directed at other ethnic minorities have not been recorded or included in the figures.
Tell Mama usually receives reports of about 30-35 incidents a week. In the seven days before the Christchurch attacks, 16 incidents were reported – an unusually low number.
The week after the Manchester attack the charity recorded the highest week-on-week increase in the number of hate incidents – a 700% rise. But more hate incidents were reported to the charity last week.
A rise in the number of hate crimes was also recorded by Tell Mama and police immediately after the June 2016 Brexit vote.
In January Britain’s leading counter-terrorism officer, Neil Basu, told the Guardian he feared Brexit tensions could lead to a rise in hate crime and also warned the issue could be exploited by rightwing extremists. “My concern is the polarisation, and I fear the far-right politicking and rhetoric leads to a rise in hate crime and a rise in disorder,” he said.
Police said extra police patrols were deployed on Britain’s streets on Friday, especially around lunchtime which is the time of the main weekly prayers for Muslims.
Anti-Muslim hate crimes soar in UK after Christchurch shootings – The Guardian