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Hate Crimes Against Muslims in the U.K. on the Rise

Advocacy groups have documented a spike in hate crimes against Muslims in the U.K. as intolerance grows in the wake of the Paris attacks.

<> on August 6, 2014 in London, England.
<> on August 6, 2014 in London, England.

Since terrorists loyal to the Islamic State launched coordinated attacks in Paris on Nov. 13, killing 129 and injuring more than 300, some Muslims in the United Kingdom are paying the price.

In the past ten days, at least 115 Muslims living in the U.K. have been the victims of religiously-motivated hate crimes, according to a new report seen by the Independent but which has not yet been publicly released. The report was prepared for the British government’s working group on anti-Muslim hatred by the Tell Mama helpline, an advocacy group that tracks attacks on Muslims in the U.K.

According to their findings, Muslim girls and women aged 14 to 45 bore the brunt of the recent hate crimes, which were perpetrated largely by white males aged 15 to 35. And women wearing the hijab — a headscarf worn by many observant Muslims —  were more likely than others to be attacked.

Although the religious hate crimes have reportedly increased dramatically this month, they were prevalent even before the deadly attacks in Paris.

This fall, London police reported that between July 2014 and July 2015 there were 816 attacks on Muslims in London, a 70 percent spike from 478 the year before. Alarmingly, a large number of the attacks recorded in this month’s report  took place in public places such as buses and trains. And according to Tell Mama, in many instances, bystanders did nothing to intervene or show sympathy.

“Many of the victims have suggested that no one came to their assistance or even consoled them,” the report said, according to the Independent. And 16 individuals of the individuals who reported being attacked said they are now “fearful of going out in the future.”

This month’s reported escalation in religious intolerance comes as far-right parties continue to gain support across the continent in the wake of attacks like those in Paris and amid public concern about the growing numbers of Syrians flooding into Europe in search of safety.

In a speech in Paris on Nov. 14, the day after the Paris attacks, Marine Le Pen, leader of France’s far-right National Front, called for expelling “foreigners who preach hatred on our soil” and for stripping binational Islamists of French citizenship. Both suggestions were endorsed nearly immediately by the socialist prime minister and president of France.

In the U.K., new laws intended to combat the threat of Islamic extremism have been in place since July, when British lawmakers passed legislation requiring public employees, including teachers, social workers, and prison officers, to report signs of radicalization.

A group of roughly 280 lawyers, academics, and public figures signed a letter criticizing what they labeled a hardline approach, claiming the legislation would “reinforce a prejudicial world view” and regard “growing a beard, wearing a hijab, or mixing with [Islamists]” as key markers used in identifying potential terrorism suspects.

This week’s findings parallel what other watchdog groups observed in the wake of the Jan. 7 attacks on Charlie Hebdo headquarters in Paris, when Islamist gunmen stormed the satirical newspaper’s offices and killed 12.

In the first week after that attack, the French Council of the Muslim Faith reported 60 cases of hate crime against Muslims and Islamic places of worship. The crimes included leaving severed pig heads on the doorsteps of mosques, scrawling epithets on their walls, and, in one incident, even firebombing a mosque with grenades.

By the end of last January, the CFCM, which de facto represents French Muslims before the government, counted 147 hate-driven acts. That number alone exceeded the total number of such incidents recorded by the group in all of 2013.

But while crimes against Muslims in Europe are on the upswing, violence against Jews remains an even more rampant problem.

In an annual report released this month, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe found that attacks motivated by anti-Semitism last year outnumbered those against Muslims by roughly six to one.

The report tallied all known attacks in Canada, the United States, and 44 countries in Europe and Central Asia in 2014, and counted a total of 1,883 attacks against Jews, synagogues, and Jewish cemeteries, versus 313 attacks against Muslims.

That contrast is especially striking considering how many more Muslims live in Europe than do Jews. In 2010, Muslims accounted for 6 percent of Europe’s total population whereas Jews represented a mere 0.2 percent that same year.

DAN KITWOOD/Getty Images

Henry Johnson is a fellow at Foreign Policy. He graduated from Claremont McKenna College with a degree in history and previously wrote for LobeLog. @HenryJohnsoon

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