Even though Muslims have been part of the U.K.'s demographic landscape for ages, a new report released by Muslim Engagement and Development (MEND) reveals that anti-Muslim hate crimes have risen dramatically in the U.K. since 2015.
Official statistics show a 44 percent and 43 percent increase in religious hate crimes in the U.K. from 2013-2014 and 2014-2015, respectively. Comparatively, the total number of religious hate crimes over the last 12 months has risen by 60 percent.
According to the MEND report, Muslims are the most targeted group among all hate crime victims, accounting for the increase in attacks on Muslims and on those perceived to be of Arab origin from 29 percent in 2015 to 34 percent in 2016.
Despite the numerous reports of anti-Muslim hate crimes, it remains difficult to verify the exact number of crimes stemming from Islamophobia in the U.K.
As mentioned in the MEND report, police forces are not flagging documented offenses involving Islamophobia; thus increasing the likelihood that a vast number of these incidents go unreported. While the report suggests that half of all hate crimes go unreported, in reality the number of anti-Muslim hate crimes is likely twice the number of reported incidents.
In the report that recorded anti-Muslim hate crimes on a gender basis, it is revealed that the majority of victims were men rather than women. According to the report, from 2015-2016, there were 706 Muslim male and 602 Muslim female victims of hate crimes.
However, given the assumption that Muslim women are much more likely to be targets of hate crime due to the visibility of the headscarf, the data should be regarded in consideration with the possibility that female victims in these cases do not report the incidents to police. So, the need for a third-party reporting center that provides a safe haven for victims to report Islamophobia-related hate crimes and other incidents is crucial.
In a specific incident, a pregnant Muslim woman was called a "Muslim terrorist" by a drunken man who shouted at her on a London bus, even leaning forward to punch her before another man intervened.
The intoxicated man was arrested after the driver called the police. This incident depicts the urgent need for action to stop the spread of Islamophobia and rising hate crimes. In another case, a Muslim student was asked to leave his seat in coach on National Express airways simply because some women sitting close by felt uncomfortable because he was Muslim. After filing a religious discrimination complaint with National Express, the man was eventually refunded his money for the flight but was never issued an apology.
These are just some of the examples of Muslim hate crimes and other, more extreme examples include murder. Clearly, Islamophobia is not just about verbal abuse but it also extends to actual harassment, prejudice and endangerment that Muslims face in their daily lives.
Unfortunately, in many Western countries including the U.S., it is not possible to see a different, more optimistic scenario regarding this problem. According to a report from the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University in San Bernardino, hate crimes against Muslims rose 78 percent during 2015.
Since then, despite the fact that Muslims make up 23.4 percent of the global population, they have remained the most targeted religious sect in the world, facing increasing risks of hate crime in their daily lives and making government intervention in the face of this increasing threat urgently crucial to combat the increasing number of hate crimes and the spread of Islamophobia.