Summary Paragraph: The government reported charges of religiously motivated crimes in the most recent 12-month periods for which data were available increased by 35 percent in England and Wales, to 5,949, by 16 percent in Scotland, to 673, and by 32 percent in Northern Ireland, to 29. CST reported 767 anti-Semitic incidents in the first six months of the year, a record high for that period. Police reported anti-Muslim incidents in London rose to a record high of 1,260 in the 12 months ending in March, a 367 percent increase from four years earlier. Home Secretary Rudd said figures suggested more than half of those experiencing hate because of their religion were Muslim. Incidents targeted Muslims, Jews, and Christians and included a killing and attempted killings, physical attacks, threats, attempted arson, and hate speech. A survey by CST and a Jewish research group found low rates of anti-Semitism, although 30 percent of respondents held at least one anti-Semitic attitude. There were multiple incidents of vandalism against Muslim and Jewish sites.
According to Home Office official figures for the 12 months ending in March, there were 5,949 religiously motivated hate crimes recorded in England and Wales – 7 percent of total hate crimes – a 35 percent increase over the 4,400 crimes in the previous year. There was no breakdown by type of crime. Home Office statisticians said the increase likely reflected both a genuine rise in hate crime and ongoing improvements in crime recording by the police. Police reported an increase in racially or religiously aggravated offenses in March, possibly connected with the March 22 terrorist attack on Westminster Bridge in London.
Relying on Home Office statistics, Tell MAMA cited a rise in racially and religiously motivated crimes in England and Wales following the EU referendum and the terrorist attacks on Westminster Bridge, Manchester Arena, and London Bridge in the first half of the year. The number of these aggravated crimes peaked at 6,000 in June, according to Tell MAMA, following a sustained spike after the Westminster Bridge terror attack. The number increased somewhat, immediately following the Finsbury Park mosque attack; however, the Home Office Report stated this was likely a continuation of the sustained increase after the London Bridge attack two weeks earlier. The number of reported crimes decreased shortly after the Finsbury Park attack.
In Scotland the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service reported 673 religiously motivated crimes in the 12 months ending in March, a 16 percent rise (581 in the previous year). The most recent figures included 384 anti-Catholic crimes (299), 165 anti-Protestant crimes (141), 113 anti-Muslim crimes (134 in the previous year), and 23 anti-Semitic crimes (18). Cases did not add up to the total number reported as some of the crimes related to conduct that targeted more than one religious group.
The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) reported 29 religiously motivated hate crimes committed in 21 incidents during the 12 months ending in September, an increase of seven from the previous reporting period. PSNI cited 21 other religiously motivated incidents in the same period that did not constitute crimes, the same number as in the previous 12 months.
Anti-Semitism and anti-Semitic hate crimes continued to rise. CST recorded 767 anti-Semitic incidents across the country in the first six months of the year, a record high for January-June and a 30 percent increase from the 589 incidents recorded during the same period in 2016. The total of 1,346 incidents in 2016 was the highest CST recorded in a calendar year. Through June CST had recorded 100 or more anti-Semitic incidents for 15 consecutive months. For the January-June period, incidents targeted Jewish public figures (16), Jewish schools (22), synagogues (35), Jewish homes (51), and Jewish cemeteries (four). CST categorized 80 incidents as assaults, a 78 percent increase from the previous year. Three quarters of the incidents, 425 and 145 respectively, occurred in the main Jewish centers of greater London and greater Manchester. CST characterized 74 percent of reported incidents as “abusive behavior,” including 142 involving verbal abuse on social media.
According to CST, the increase in anti-Semitic incidents reported may have resulted in part from improvements in information collection, including better reporting from victims and witnesses as a result of growing communal concern about anti-Semitism; an increase in the number of security guards (many of whom the government funded through a CST-administered grant to provide security at Jewish locations); and ongoing improvements to CST’s information sharing with police forces around the country.
According to a July report by the NGO Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA), there were 1,078 anti-Semitic hate crimes in 2016, an increase of 44 percent from two years earlier. There were 105 violent crimes reported, according to CAA, only one of which resulted in prosecution. In total, authorities prosecuted only 15 cases, leading to 17 convictions. CAA called for specific training and guidance on anti-Semitic hate crime for police and prosecutors, appointment of a senior officer in each police force with responsibility for overseeing responses to anti-Semitic crimes, and a requirement for the Crown Prosecution Service to record and regularly publish details of cases involving anti-Semitism and their outcomes, as police forces were already required to do.
Police recorded a continuing increase in anti-Muslim hate crimes. According to The Guardian newspaper, London police recorded 1,260 anti-Muslim crimes in the 12 months ending in March, compared with 1,109 in 2015-16 and 343 incidents over the same period four years earlier. According to Shahid Malik, chairman of Tell MAMA, following the Brexit vote, there was an “explosion of anti-Muslim hate both online and on our streets, with visibly Muslim women being disproportionately targeted by cowardly hatemongers.” The Guardiancited Home Secretary Rudd as stating that figures suggested more than half of those who experienced hate because of their religion were Muslim.
The Guardian reported the number of anti-Islamic crimes in Manchester increased fivefold in the week after the May 22 terrorist bombing of the Manchester arena, with 139 crimes reported to Tell MAMA, compared with 25 in the previous week. Police statistics, according to The Guardian, indicated reported anti-Muslim crimes in June, the month after the bombing, increased to 224, compared with 37 a year earlier. According to the BBC, Wasim Chaudhry, the Manchester police’s lead officer for hate crime, Muslims underreported hate crimes because of privacy and other concerns. On June 7, London Mayor Sadiq Khan stated police would take a “zero-tolerance approach” to hate crimes.
In August Tell MAMA, CST, the Crown Prosecution Service, and the Department for Communities and Local Government published a Hate Crime Guide to help those affected. The guide provided guidance on navigating the criminal justice system, reporting or reacting to hate crimes, and understanding the court system. The organizations repeatedly stated that as levels of reported hate crimes, including religiously motivated ones, continued to grow, the need for collaborative efforts to educate and inform those affected became increasingly important.
In September Scottish NGO Victim Support Scotland (VSS) said stakeholders should undertake a collaborative approach to tackle hate crime. VSS said tackling hate crime should mirror the approach to dealing with public health issues, where organizations worked together to support victims and their communities. VSS added there could be an overlap between racial and religious hate crimes; for example, anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic incidents could contain elements of both racial and religious prejudice and it was not always clear whether a victim had been targeted because of their race or religion. The VSS also stated the mixed motivation for hate crimes was relevant to those of an Irish background in Scotland. While the police would define such crimes as “sectarian,” the victims might not define themselves as being a victim of a religiously motivated hate crime.
In June authorities charged Darren Osborne, 47, with the terrorism-related murder of Makram Ali, 51, and attempted murder. Osborne was accused of driving his van into a group of Muslim worshipers outside a mosque in Finsbury Park in north London on June 19, while yelling, “I’m going to kill all Muslims…” Osborne’s trial was set for January 2018.
On April 1, individuals attacked a 17-year old Kurdish-Iranian at a Croydon bus stop after forcing him to admit he was an asylum seeker. The attackers chased, punched, and kicked the teenager until he was unconscious, leaving him with a fractured skull and a blood clot in the brain. The Guardian reported police arrested 17 persons in connection with the investigation. According to press reports, on November 9, three of the attackers were convicted of violent disorder, and three other individuals were acquitted of the same charge. A seventh defendant pled guilty before the start of the trial. Local MP Gavin Barwell said he was “appalled” by the incident, calling the attackers “scum.” Labour Leader Corbyn tweeted he was “absolutely shocked at the attack.”
In London on June 21, a man threw acid on two Muslim cousins, Jameel Muhktar and Resham Khan, while they sat in a car stopped at a traffic light in Beckton. Both suffered severe burns to the face and body; Muhktar was initially placed in an induced coma. Authorities treated the attack as a hate crime and charged John Tomlin with grievous bodily harm. On November 27, Tomlin pled guilty to the charges on the first day of his trial. His sentencing hearing was scheduled for January 2018.
In September a man stabbed Dr. Nasser Kurdy, an orthopedic surgeon and imam, as he arrived at the Altrincham Islamic center in greater Manchester for evening prayers. Kurdy suffered a noncritical stab wound in the neck, which required stitches. Authorities treated the incident as a hate crime and charged Ian Anthony Rooke with unlawful and malicious wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm and possession of a lethal weapon. Rooke’s trial was scheduled for March 2018.
In November a male attacker pushed a Muslim woman to the ground and pulled off her hijab. The police treated the incident as a racially or religiously aggravated hate crime.
On December 5, Marek Zakrocki, a supporter of the Britain First Party, was convicted of dangerous driving. On June 23, after shouting “white power” and giving a Nazi salute, he drove a van over the curb at Kamal Ahmed, who was standing in front of an Indian restaurant. When arrested in Harrow that evening, Zakrocki was carrying a knife and a Nazi coin and stated he was “going to kill a Muslim.” Zakrocki was remanded into custody, and a sentence hearing was scheduled for January 2018.
On May 9, police arrested a man waving a meat cleaver and threatening customers and staff at two kosher stores in North London.
In July police arrested a man armed with two knives when he attempted to enter a London synagogue.
In June unidentified individuals in a car threw a bag of vomit at two Muslim women wearing hijabs in another car in Blackburn.
In Manchester in November a woman shouted “black scumbag” and other epithets at a Muslim woman wearing a headscarf and spat in the face of the Muslim woman’s young son.
Sufia Alam, manager of the Maryam Center at the East London Mosque, said Muslim women reported being verbally abused on buses following the June attack at the London Bridge, including one whom an individual grabbed around the throat at a bus stop, and others whom persons verbally abused, spat on, or threatened with attack. He described the abuse as “part of the course of being a Muslim in the UK today.”
In August a man threw glass bottles and yelled, “Hitler was a good man” at two teenage Jewish girls in London.
In London on January 20, unknown individuals pelted a group of Jewish pedestrians with eggs as they returned home from Shabbat evening services.
In January St. Clare’s School in Handsworth prohibited a four-year-old Muslim girl from wearing a headscarf at school because it went against the school’s uniform policy. The city council said because the school was faith-based, it was within its rights to insist on a particular dress code.
In Surrey on June 24, suspects used hostile language against a group of Muslims who had just visited a mosque, then pushed and rocked the vehicle in which the group was travelling. East Surrey Superintendent Clive Davies said a thorough investigation was underway to identify the suspects and stepped up patrols in the area.
In June members of the Sikh Sewa Organization, a Sikh group that provided food to the homeless, said they had to flee the site where they were working at Piccadilly Gardens in Manchester after members of the English Defense League, a group professing opposition to “global Islamification,” became abusive.
Police investigated two arson attacks on kosher restaurants in Prestwich, a Jewish area of Manchester. Shortly before midnight on June 2, two men approached the Ta’am restaurant and threw a milk carton filled with gasoline and a lit rag at the premises. On June 6, offenders forced open a window in JS Restaurant and poured accelerant inside and lit it. No one was hurt in either incident, as both restaurants were closed at the time of the attacks. Both restaurants reopened.
CST, which worked closely with police to help reassure and protect Jewish communities, increased security patrols in greater Manchester and the surrounding area following the Manchester and London terror attacks.
According to a National Union of Students survey of students conducted from November 2016 to February 2017, 26 percent of Jewish university students were fairly or very worried about being physically attacked, and 28 percent said they had been subjected to abuse on social media or other communication channels. Two thirds said they believed they had been targeted due to their religion, and the same proportion reported difficulties with classes and exams being scheduled on Jewish holidays. Almost half reported difficulties accessing kosher food on campus.
A joint study issued in September by the Institute for Jewish Policy Research (JPR) and the CST found not more than 2.4 percent of the country’s population held strong anti-Semitic views, while another 3 percent could be termed “softer” anti-Semites. According to the survey, 4 percent believed violence was often or sometimes justified against Jews, compared with 7.5 percent who felt violence was often or sometimes justified against Muslims. Approximately 30 percent of the population held an unfavorable view of Jews or endorsed at least one of seven anti-Semitic statements in the survey. The presence of anti-Semitic and anti-Israel attitudes were two to four times higher among Muslims than among the general population, but most Muslims disagreed with or were neutral about the seven anti-Semitic statements presented to them. The report concluded the levels of anti-Semitism in the country were among the lowest in the world. The findings came from the largest and most detailed survey of attitudes towards Jews and Israel ever conducted in the country. The JPR’s researchers questioned 5,466 persons, including 995 Muslims, face-to-face and online in 2016-17.
In April Micheline Brannan, Chair of the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities, filed a complaint with the Scottish Parliament’s Presiding Officer over an incident at Holyrood’s Cross-Party Group on Palestine (CPG), a parliament-organized gathering of interested parties to discuss the issue of Palestine. Brannan stated the treasurer of the CPG, Philip Chetwynd, described her and her colleagues as “representatives of Zionist organizations” and “ideological terrorists” and asked them to leave the meeting. Other CPG members rejected the call for their ouster.
In August University of Glasgow rector and human rights lawyer Aamer Anwar, a Muslim, received hate mail and abusive tweets after he was interviewed on television following a Barcelona terrorist attack, where he narrowly avoided being hit by a van. Anwar said one of the messages was from former leader of the English Defense League Tommy Robinson, who called him “a lawyer for ISIS terrorist Aqsa Mahmood,” while another read, “shame he didn’t get hit by the van.” Anwar said he had received death threats in 2016 after condemning ISIS and extremism and calling for unity in the Muslim community following the killing of a Muslim shopkeeper in Glasgow.
In August Cayman Islands news media reported a local activist, Kerry Tibbetts, had launched a campaign to replace the newly appointed governor of the territory, Anwar Bokth Choudhury, a Muslim, scheduled to take office in 2018. Tibbetts reportedly said the FCO was insensitive in appointing a non-Christian to the job. Also in August, according to the Cayman News Service, the local Christian community largely rejected the offer of a Toronto-based imam from the Ahmadiyya Muslim community, Aizaz Khan, to meet and discuss religion while he visited on vacation. According to the report, Khan said some Christians called him “scum.”
Community organizing group Citizens UK, chaired by former Attorney General Dominic Grieve, released a report in July, “Missing Muslims: Unlocking British Muslim potential for the benefit of all,” that recommended the British Muslim community appoint British-born and trained imams instead of foreign born ones and take a stronger stance against persecution of other faiths, including anti-Semitism and attacks against other branches of Islam. A racial equality think tank, Runnymeade Trust, agreed with the report’s findings and expressed hope it would stimulate debate. Leading website for Islamic and current affairs Islam21c.com criticized the report, stating there was “nothing radical or new about it” and only involved persons (Muslim and non-Muslim) who shared a particular establishment thinking and a stereotypical agenda about “Muslims as a problem community.”
In March two street preachers in Bristol who told Muslims their God “did not exist” and called a crowd of shoppers “animals” were fined 330 pounds ($450) each and ordered to pay court costs of 3,372 pounds ($4,600) after being convicted of a religiously aggravated public order offense.
In September Chelsea soccer club sports fans sang a song about Alvaro Morata, a player on the team, that included an anti-Semitic slur reportedly directed against Chelsea rival Tottenham Hotspur, which has a large Jewish fan base. Morata told Chelsea supporters to “respect everyone,” and the club condemned the song, stating it would impose a life ban on any fans found guilty of joining in anti-Semitic songs.
Britain First, a nationalist party widely described as far-right, organized a “Persecuted Patriots Rally” in Bromley on November 4 to “show solidarity” with its leaders, Paul Golding and Jayda Fransen. In May authorities charged the leaders with causing religiously aggravated harassment in connection with a trial of four Muslim men, at least three of whom were migrants from Afghanistan, accused of gang-raping a 16-year-old girl. Authorities said that, during the trial of the four men, Golding and Fransen had distributed leaflets, posted videos, and harassed individuals whom they believed were associated with the accused rapists. Approximately 50 Britain First supporters turned out; they were outnumbered by a counterprotest organized by groups including Unite Against Fascism. Golding and Fransen appeared before Medway magistrates on October 17 and pled not guilty. Their case was adjourned to 2018.
Barbara Fielding-Morris, an independent candidate for parliament in the June general election, posted anti-Semitic comments on a blog from September 2016 to February, praising Hitler for trying to “clear” Germany of Jews and accusing Jews of being “cowardly.” Fielding-Morris pleaded not guilty to three counts of incitement of hatred. A hearing was set for February 2018.
In September a gasoline bomb thrown at the central mosque in Edinburgh caused a minor fire and damage to a door. Police charged 29-year-old Thomas Conington with arson aggravated by religious and racial prejudice. Conington was convicted in June and sentenced to a minimum prison term of three years and nine months.
In October Tell MAMA reported an attack on Shia gravestones in the Pleasington Cemetery in Blackburn. The NGO said the desecration of Shia gravestones in a cemetery where other Muslim headstones were not touched showed anti-Shia hatred.
In June individuals defaced the Thornaby mosque in Stockton-on-Trees with anti-Muslim graffiti. The words “Muslim Cowards” were found spray-painted on the outside of the mosque. Police investigated the incident as a hate crime but did not charge anyone. Members of the Stockton-on-Trees community helped remove the graffiti, and the mosque organized a community day to clear up misconceptions about Islam.
On August 24, a severed pig’s head was left on the doorstep of an Islamic center in Newtownards, Northern Ireland. The wall of the building was also vandalized with anti-Muslim graffiti, which the PSNI investigated as a hate crime. Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) MP for Strangford Jim Shannon and other local politicians condemned the incident.
On September 25, the Inverary Community Center in East Belfast was targeted with graffiti containing swastikas and stating, “No Muslims, No Blacks” and a severed pig’s head. The Belfast City Council, which owned the center, quickly removed the messages. DUP MP for East Belfast Gavin Robinson described the attack as “appalling.”
In December 2016, individuals spray painted the words “Saracen go home” and “Deus Vult,” a Latin phrase associated with the Crusades meaning “God wills it,” on the walls of a mosque in Cumbernauld, Scotland. Police treated the vandalism as a hate crime; they made no arrests.
In February the Jewish community in Belfast held a rededication ceremony for 13 graves that unidentified vandals had destroyed in 2016. The Belfast Lord Mayor and representatives from the two largest Unionist parties attended the ceremony.
On January 21, unidentified vandals threw a brick with images of swastikas and anti-Semitic messages through the window of a Jewish home in the Edgware district of London. On the same day, unidentified individuals defaced the personal property of a Jewish resident in Mill Hill in London with swastikas.
On March 17, a Belfast mural honoring the life of Lieutenant Colonel John Henry Patterson was defaced with the words “scum” and “Nazi.” Patterson was an Irish Zionist who commanded a volunteer force known as the Jewish Legion during World War I. The PSNI treated the incident as an anti-Semitic hate crime.
According to press reports, members of St. Editha’s Church in Tamworth, Staffordshire, England, discovered anti-Christian messages on the walls and doors of the church in July. Messages said “God has failed” and “Deliver us from evil.” Police stop-searched and interviewed two teenagers in connection with the incident.
There were a number of interfaith efforts throughout the year. In January a London synagogue raised money to house a Muslim refugee family in the synagogue. In March an estimated 1,500 Jews participated in the Sadaqa Day of Muslim-led social action, according to British newspaper Jewish News. Muslims in turn participated in Mitzvah Day, the sister initiative to the Muslim event. Muslims and Jews collaborated on 15 joint Sadaqa Day and Mitzvah Day projects. Also in March Muslim youth, police officers, and hundreds of others linked hands on Westminster Bridge in honor of those who died in the Westminster terror attack. Children held signs which read, “Islam says no to terror.”