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Anti-Muslim hate crimes on the rise in Britain

Press Trust of India  |  London 

Hate crimes against Muslims have soared in the UK this year, especially after the brutal murder of a soldier by two Islamic extremists on the streets of south-east London in broad daylight, a report said today.

Hundreds of anti-Muslim offences were carried out across the country in 2013, with Britain's biggest law enforcement agency, the Metropolitan police, recording 500 "Islamophobic" crimes, the Guardian reported.

But the figures is likely to be much higher as nearly half of the 43 forces in England and Wales did not reveal how many hate crimes had targeted Muslims. Some forces admitted they did not always record the faith of a religious hate-crime victim.

The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) had previously said 71 incidents were reported to its national community tension team over five days after soldier Lee Rigby's murder on May 22.

Tell Mama, a group which monitors anti-Muslim incidents, said it had dealt with 840 cases since April, with the number expected to rise to more than 1,000 by the end of March. This compared with 582 anti-Muslim cases it dealt with from March 2012 to March 2013, the report said.

Fiyaz Mujhal of the the Tell Mama group said the reaction to the murder of Rigby had caused the number of Islamophobic crimes to jump significantly.

"The far right groups, particularly the English Defence League, perniciously use the internet and social media to promote vast amounts of online hate," he said.

The English Defence League is a far-right street protest movement which opposes what it considers to be a spread of Islamism, Sharia law and Islamic extremism in Britain.

Mujhal said tougher sentencing was needed to tackle Islamophobic crime and that current guidelines to monitor social media were not fit for purpose.

"We also need more robust sentencing. In one case, a pig's head was left outside a mosque and the perpetrator came away with a community sentence. When you target a mosque, you are targeting the whole community."

ACPO's spokesman on hate crime Superintendent Paul Giannasi, "The courts already hand out tougher punishments where race or religion are found to be aggravating factors. The number of people receiving a custodial sentence for these appalling crimes is higher than ever before.

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First Published: Fri, December 27 2013. 16:16 IST