London after 7/7: capital of hate?
The Met’s new stats were said to show an explosion in faith hate crimes. Actually, they showed the opposite.
‘Hate crimes soar after bombings’, reported a BBC News headline (1). ‘SCAPEGOATS’, read the Independent’s front page (2). This was the response to London Metropolitan Police statistics published this week, which showed that 273 faith hate crimes had occurred in the three weeks since the bombings, up from 41 in the same period last year.
Dr Zaki Badawi, head of the Muslim College in London, even advised Muslim women to stop wearing the hijab, lest it mark them out for a beating: ‘A woman wearing the hijab… could suffer aggression from irresponsible elements.’
Are London’s streets really unsafe for Muslim women to walk? Hardly. The Met’s stats actually suggest that predictions of an Islamophobic backlash after the bombings were wrong: 273 incidents hardly amounts to a pogrom, in a capital of some 7million people and 600,000 Muslims. Most of these incidents, the Met says, consisted of ‘verbal abuse, criminal damage and other non-violent crime’. There were no cases of murders, attempted murders, disorder, or serious criminal damage.
Moreover, much of the increase since last year can be explained by new reporting methods. The Met suggests that what ‘last year may have been recorded as a race crime is now…being recorded as faith crime’. This can be seen in the fact that race crimes for the three-week period were down, from 1,283 in 2004 to 1,159 in 2005. Faith hate incidents peaked after 7 and 21 July, but this could have been the result of the Met’s ‘reassurance plan’, which involved encouraging people to report incidents, however small.
Muslims are being warned from every quarter about the threat of violence, and barraged with telephone numbers to report incidents. The Muslim Council of Britain and the Muslim Safety Forum recently set up an Incident Monitoring Service, and the Islamic Human Rights Commission is collecting a tally of incidents. Muslim media such as the Islam Channel constantly run adverts encouraging people to report crimes or incidents, however insignificant they might appear to be.
Behind the fuss about Islamophobia lies the elite’s fear of the white working classes, who are seen as volatile and ready to explode at any moment. All those police officers posted outside mosques are signals to passers by, warnings not to try anything on.
The faith crime issue is also becoming a way for the police to try to build links with Muslim communities, and show that it is taking their concerns on board. But far from resolving concerns, this creates an official Islamophobia industry, which cranks the issue up whatever the reality on the streets.
The more the police talk about Islamophobia – and the more women are told they can’t go out – the more Muslims’ sense of disengagement will intensify. The most sensible response this week came from Miss Rajnaara Akhtar, chair of the Assembly for the Protection of the Hijab, who noted: ‘It’s not about life and death, it’s not so extreme that if we step outside the house with our hijab on, we’re going to get attacked left, right and centre. It’s not that bad and the British people are far, far better [than that].’ (3)
spiked-issue: London bombs
(1) Hate crimes soar after bombings, 4 August 2005
(2) Independent, 4 August 2005
(3) Muslim women reject calls to remove hijab, The Muslim News, 4 August 2005
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