The Crime in Hate Crime

Posted by Caabu on 07 Jul 2017

By Sophie Marjoribanks

7 July 2017

Figures showing the high numbers of anti-Muslim hate crime across the UK have emerged in recent months. However, these figures do not convey the seriousness of some of these incidents. These are not only insults shouted across the street, but cases of serious crime, fuelled by hate. Unfortunately, we have seen many examples in recent weeks to remind us of this.

The most extreme case is, of course, that of the Finsbury Park attack, where a man drove into a group of worshippers, killing one and injuring at least eight. However, it is not unique as a case of anti-Muslim hate crime leading to a fatality; even when there are no deaths, there are serious cases of attacks and assaults. Figures of thousands of instances of hate crime lump all these instances together, from the least to the most serious. While every incident is something to be taken seriously, it is easy to forget how violent hate crime can be - and has been.

It emerged at the beginning of July 2017 that a 21-year old Muslim woman was assaulted on 3 July 2016 by Peter Scotter in Sunderland, who shouted at her, “you f***ing stupid Muslim,” and “you’re in our country now, f***ing get out,” as he ripped off her niqab and threw it to the ground. He has now been jailed for fifteen months. A quick Google search reveals the frequency of cases of women’s hijabs being violently removed by attackers; on 15 July 2017, a woman was assaulted at Baker Street tube station in London, as a man reportedly attempted to rip off her hijab while verbally abusing her and the friends she was with, one of whom was pinned up against the wall and spat at. It is being treated as a suspected hate crime. There was another case of someone trying to violently remove a woman's hijab in Sheffield on 21 June and two in the previous week; one in Peterborough and one in North East London. In the same month, there was also a case of a man who threw a bag of vomit at two women sitting in their car and, in July 2017, a Muslim woman was reportedly accused of having a bomb by a shop assistant in Kent.

On 16 July 2017, the Nasfat Islamic Centre in Manchester was set alight in what are being treated as "suspicious cirumstances" - the incident is expected to be treated as a possible case of hate crime. It is not the first time that the mosque has been targeted; three years ago, a minibus used by the mosque was also set alight and reports indicate that an incident occurred where a pig's head was thrown at the mosque. In May 2017, there was a similar case, as the door of the Jamia Qasmia Zahidia Islamic Centre in Oldham was set on fire - a suspected revenge attack for the Manchester bombing just hours earlier. 

Horrifying instances of acid attacks also seem to be on the rise. On 21 June, cousins Jameel Mukhtar and Resham Khan were attacked in Beckton, with acid sprayed at them while in their car. They have both been left with life-changing injuries. A similar attack was reported on 29 June in Tower Hamlets, as well as reports of two attacks on 20 June in East Ham, where one was perpetrated by two individuals on a moped and the other by someone pretending to be a delivery man. In an interview with Channel 4, Jameel Mukhtar said he felt that, had it been a case of two white people attacked by a Muslim, it would have attracted much more media attention sooner. He was convinced it was a case of hate crime, fuelled by Islamophobia. However, it was not until Friday 30 June that the case was treated as a hate crime, with the police reportedly finding new evidence.

It is not clear whether the other attacks are also instances of hate crime; certainly, it seems that acid has also been the weapon of choice in attacks that have targeted white individuals, with no sign of racial motivation. Nevertheless, there is a growing fear in East London of a rise in such attacks and, on 5 July, a demonstration was held outside Stratford train station to protest against what many Londoners see as high levels of Islamophobia. Banners at the protest read “stop racist attacks,” and “no racism.”

The protest comes in the same week as it is has emerged that Bijan Ebrahimi, an Iranian immigrant killed by his neighbour in 2013, had called police 85 times to report crimes, including racial abuse and threats to his life. One police officer even reportedly accused Ebrahimi of “playing the race card”; another told him that he was a “pain in the a***.”

While the figure of 1,264 islamophobic hate crimes over the span of a year (2016-17) is shockingly high, it does not reveal the frightening details of some of these attacks. Insults and discrimination are common; but so, it seems, are violent attacks on Muslims, where the perpetrators are not simply ignorant individuals turned nasty, but dangerous criminals.

Updated on 17 July 2017 in light of further attacks. 

About the Author: 

Sophie Marjoribanks has just completed a BA in Politics from University College London and has previously worked in Morocco and Jordan.