There were numerous reports of religiously motivated hate crimes, including physical and verbal attacks against Muslim and Jewish community members, and vandalism against religious sites. Both governmental and civil society organizations reported an increase in religious hate crimes and incidents in England, Wales, and Scotland, and a decrease in Northern Ireland. In March a Sunni Muslim killed an Ahmadi Muslim shopkeeper outside the latter’s store in Glasgow. The killer confessed a religious motivation and was sentenced to life in prison. A university expelled a Christian graduate student after he expressed opposition to gay marriage on social media because of his Christian beliefs.
According to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), based on data provided by the government, between April 2015 and March 2016 in England and Wales, there were 2,372 anti-Muslim crimes, 1,055 crimes against Christians and other religious groups such as Hindus and Sikhs; and 786 anti-Semitic crimes. In 2015, OSCE said civil society reported 96 violent attacks against Muslims (45 in 2014) and 88 against Jews (83 in 2014), and 73 attacks against Muslim property (30 in 2014) and 152 against Jewish property (152 in 2014). The Home Office reported 4,400 religious hate crimes between March 2015 and March 2016, a 34 percent increase over the previous year (3,293). It reported a sharp rise in hate crimes in England and Wales following the Brexit referendum on June 23. According to figures from the National Police Chiefs’ Council, there was a 41 percent increase in the number of religiously aggravated offenses in the month of July 2016 over the month of July 2015.
From April 2015 to March 2016, the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service reported 581 charges of crimes with “religious aggravation” in Scotland (569 in the previous year). From March 2015 to April 2016, the Scottish government cited 134 anti-Muslim hate crimes (71 in the previous year), 299 charges of anti-Catholic crimes (328 in the previous year), and 141 anti-Protestant offenses (145 in the previous year). There were 50 religiously motivated incidents at Scottish soccer matches from April 2015 to April 2016 (48 in the previous year).
The Police Service of Northern Ireland reported 23 religiously motivated crimes in 2016, up from 20 in the previous year.
The Community Security Trust (CST), an NGO monitoring anti-Semitism, recorded 1,309 anti-Semitic incidents, a 36 percent increase from the previous year. The 1,309 incidents recorded in 2016 included 107 violent anti-Semitic assaults, an increase of 29 per cent from the 87 cases recorded in 2015. The most common single type of incident recorded by the CST in 2016 involved verbal abuse randomly directed at visibly Jewish people in public. In 385 incidents (29 percent of the overall total), the victims were attacked or abused while in public places. In at least 186 of these incidents, the victims were identified as “visibly Jewish,” wearing religious or traditional clothing, or a school uniform or jewelry bearing Jewish symbols. The CST recorded 287 anti-Semitic incidents that involved social media in 2016, comprising 22 per cent of the overall total. Three-quarters of the 1,039 incidents happened in greater London and greater Manchester, the sites of the two largest Jewish communities in the country.
On March 24, Sunni Muslim Tanveer Ahmed killed Ahmadi Muslim shopkeeper Asad Shah outside Shah’s store in Glasgow. Ahmed claimed he killed Shah because he “disrespected the Prophet Muhammad,” and was sentenced to life in prison in August. Following the killing, there was an impromptu vigil outside Shah’s store, held by the local community, which Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon attended. Shortly before his killing, Shah had posted on social media, “Good Friday and very Happy Easter, especially to my beloved Christian nation. Let’s follow the real footstep of beloved holy Jesus Christ and get the real success in both worlds.” It is not known whether Shah’s overtures to the Christian community contributed to his death.
On February 18, Imam Jalal Uddin was killed walking through a children’s playground in Rochdale. Mohammed Hussain Syeedy, 21, of Rochdale was charged with murder and conspiracy to commit murder and found guilty on September 16. His alleged accomplice Mohammed Kadir left the country and was thought to be in Syria, according to court officials. Official reports indicated Uddin may have been targeted for practicing taweez faith healing, a form of Islamic healing in Rochdale’s Bangladeshi community, which ISIS considered to be “black magic.”
On June 14, two men assaulted an Afghan taxi driver in his cab. The driver, who suffered injuries to his head and body, reported the perpetrators said they were attacking him for being a Muslim. Police arrested two people in connection with the crime.
In October a white male assaulted a Muslim woman on London’s Oxford Street, trying to remove her hijab by force after she refused to take it off. Westminster Police were investigating security footage at year’s end. In a separate incident in December an attacker in Chingford dragged a Muslim woman along the pavement by her hijab. She was taken to the hospital. NGO Tell MAMA called the incident “horrific” and said women were being disproportionately targeted in attacks on Muslims. A spokesperson for the NGO said, “For years data collected by us has shown that visible Muslim women are the ones most targeted for street-based anti-Muslim hatred.”
On December 12, a man reportedly stabbed a passenger on a train at Forest Hill station in southeast London before chasing people outside while waving a knife in his hand and shouting, “Who is a Muslim? I want to kill a Muslim.” The victim suffered a punctured lung and wounds to his head and torso. Police identified the suspect as Adrian Brown, 38, and by year’s end was remanded in custody. His next court appearance was scheduled for January 2017. In January three men attacked three Orthodox Jews in London, pelting them with small gas canisters and yelling “Hitler is on the way to you, heil Hitler, heil Hitler!” at them. There were no injuries.
A Muslim human rights lawyer reported receiving death threats after he condemned violence and extremism and called for unity within the Muslim community following the killing of Asad Shah. The lawyer reported receiving death threats by phone in the middle of the night and suffered abuse on social media. Police were investigating the case.
In August a mosque in Rotherham received a letter stating, “Next time it will be a bomb, you Muslim scum, 1488.” NGO Tell MAMA stated the threat was sent by extremist and far-right groups, using the neo-Nazi terminology of 1488. According to the Anti-Defamation League, the “14” represents 14 words of the slogan, “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children,” and the “88” stands for “heil Hitler.” The incident was reported to the police and the NGO urged the public of Rotherham to remain vigilant.
A graduate student studying social work was expelled from Sheffield University after voicing opposition to gay marriage in a Facebook discussion. He stated that homosexual activity was contrary to his Christian beliefs and reported suffering religious discrimination from the university. At a university hearing, officials stated he was entitled to his opinion but his comment and beliefs would affect his ability to advance in the social work profession and, therefore, he was expelled from the university. The chief executive from the Christina Legal Centre condemned the ruling and stated, “This is just the latest step in a long line of cases in which professions have been closed off to Christians.”
In March Arsenal soccer fans chanted and shouted anti-Semitic slogans and sang about the Holocaust and Auschwitz in the London Underground on the way to a match. Passengers notified the police but stated they did not adequately respond to the incident.
According to a study published in June by the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities, 32 percent of approximately 300 Jewish respondents living in Scotland voluntarily reported a heightened level of anxiety, discomfort, or vulnerability, even though the survey did not directly ask them such a question. The study’s methodology included focus group discussions and questionnaires. Four in five respondents said the events in the Middle East during the summer of 2014 had negatively affected their experience of being Jewish in Scotland, while 20 respondents (7 percent) said they kept their Jewish identity secret.
In November a protest occurred against a proposed mosque in Bolton. Protest organizer Bruan Morgan said, “Today was about highlighting the corruption of the council, the Islamification of the town, the mosque-building program” and denied the protest was “racist.” According to Tell MAMA, photos showed protesters giving the Nazi salute. The protest and its 100 supporters dispersed after 90 minutes.
In January Muslim women students in Darlington, in northeast England, appealed to MP Jenny Chapman saying that anti-Muslim hatred had increased after the November 2015 Paris attacks. They gave the example of Muslim women wearing veils having been spat upon. Chapman condemned the “disgraceful” incidents and stressed the importance of reporting hate crimes. She stated, “It’s not acceptable and we all need to stand up to this together.”
In February the Muslim Council of Britain opened the doors of 92 mosques across the country to the public in a bid to counter negative stereotypes about Muslims. Thousands of people participated.
In an August convention of Ahmadi Muslims in Afton in Hampshire, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, the Worldwide Caliph of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, led a crowd of some 30,000 in a “vow of peace and obedience.” He also stated, “Let it be clear that [terrorists] are not practicing Islam, rather it seems as though they have invented their own hate-filled and poisonous religion.”
On July 27, Heavenly Culture World Peace Restoration of Light, an international organization, hosted the 11th UK World Alliance of Religions’ Peace Office in the London Spirituality Center. Muslim, Sikh, International Society for Krishna Consciousness, Jain, and Buddhist religious leaders gathered to discuss the commonalities within their scriptures in order to spread a message of peace.
On November 15, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and UK Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis launched an initiative entitled In Good Faith, which began with an all-day conference for priests and rabbis serving similar local areas in England. The aim was to create relationships between pairs of priests and rabbis and discuss the challenges of creating and sustaining thriving faith communities, combating religious extremism, developments in the Holy Land and implications for interreligious relations, and opportunities to contribute to the common good together. Archbishop Welby acknowledged the Church of England’s own history of intolerance and deep-seated anti-Semitism and stated that he was ready to be answerable and held accountable for both “implicit” and “willful” anti-Semitism.
On August 28, unknown individuals destroyed 13 Jewish graves in Belfast. Police investigated eight youths who knocked over headstones and in some cases used hammers to destroy markers. Officials condemned the incident and local authorities offered assistance to rectify the damage. A senior Jewish community member in Belfast expressed concern to local media outlets that the incident, coupled with anti-Semitic vandalism on other Jewish sites in Belfast and other cities, represented a rise in anti-Semitism in the region.
On July 18, a Bristol court jailed two men and gave suspended sentences to two women who pleaded guilty to religiously aggravated public order offenses in connection with a January 18 incident at Bristol Jamia Mosque in Totterdown, when the perpetrators hung pig meat outside the mosque and shouted insults at those praying inside. After the incident, Chief Inspector Kevin Rowlands said “behavior of this kind is totally unacceptable. Our communities have the right to live and worship peacefully without fear of being targeted for their race or religion.” All four were given a restraining order preventing them from going anywhere within 300 feet of a mosque in England or Wales for 10 years.
In January a man was arrested on suspicion of “racially or religiously aggravated provocation” by Lancashire police after he dumped two pig heads outside an Islamic girls’ school in Lancashire in December 2015. Police labeled the incident as a hate crime against Muslims.
In June Belfast police investigated an arson attack on a Jewish war memorial. Two containers filled with flammable liquid were set on fire next to the memorial. Pastor Paul Burns, of Jewish heritage, from the Adullam Christian Fellowship in Belfast condemned the attack and said Belfast’s Jewish community had been “deeply hurt, deeply alarmed” by the incident. Police treated the incident as a hate crime and were investigating the case at year’s end.
In September an object was thrown at the central mosque in Edinburgh, causing minor fire damage to a door. A 28-year-old man was charged with arson aggravated by religious and racial prejudice.
On September 5, the Belfast Islamic Center was defaced with paint. Police were investigating the incident as a hate crime. The Alliance Party and Sinn Fein Party both condemned the vandalism and called for help identifying the perpetrators.