Appeal for unity after rise in hate crime

Concern as data shows fourfold increase in Islamophobic crime

by Russell Hargrave

Waltham Forest Islamic Association

Irfan Akhtar, assistant secretary at Waltham Forest Islamic Association, outside the mosque in Lea Bridge Road

Community leaders have called for unity after figures showed a shock rise in Islamophobia across Waltham Forest.

Data from the Metropolitan Police revealed that the number of local hate crimes against Muslims had quadrupled in one year.

In the period between November 2014 and November 2015, there were 37 Islamophobic crimes committed in Waltham Forest, compared to nine in the same period of 2013-14.

Waltham Forest also experienced more hate crimes against Muslims during this time than any of its neighbouring boroughs.

The Met Police defines Islamophobic crime as “any crime perceived to be Islamophobic by the victim or other person”.

The number of such incidents has grown more sharply in this borough than across London as a whole, where recorded crimes against Muslims rose from 499 to 818 in the same 12-month period.

Irfan Akhtar, a spokesperson for the Waltham Forest Council of Mosques and the assistant secretary at Waltham Forest Islamic Association in Lea Bridge Road, told the Echo greater dialogue was required to help combat Islamophobia.

He said: “The increase in Islamophobia is a worrying trend, and one we must all work to reverse, like any other discrimination.

“In Waltham Forest we enjoy a diverse and generally positive harmony, despite the numbers from the Met Police.

“We encourage anyone having genuine questions on Islam and its message, no matter how controversial, to approach us for an honest and open discussion.

“We firmly believe dialogue is the way to achieve true understanding and harmony.”

Irfan also suggested the figures may result in part from people who live outside the borough coming to the area to cause trouble.

Reverend Steven Saxby, vicar of St Barnabas Church in Walthamstow and a leader of many interfaith initiatives in Waltham Forest, is also concerned. He said: “It is very disturbing to see figures showing such a rise in Islamophobic attacks.

“It reinforces the need for all sections of the community to engage in deeper understanding and appreciation of each other.”

Waltham Forest has the third highest Muslim population in London. A 2013 survey of local residents, conducted as part of research into the most diverse communities in Europe, found that 74 percent of Muslim and 65 percent of non-Muslim respondents felt that people in the area got on well together.

A Met Police spokesperson told the Echo: “We believe the increase in Islamophobic hate crime is due to a range of factors. This includes a growing willingness of victims to report hate crime, an improved awareness of staff in identifying these offences; and work with partners to support victims. World events can also contribute to a rise in hate crime.

“We are acutely aware that all areas of hate crime are still under-reported and we are encouraged that more people feel confident to report racial and religious hate crimes, regardless if this is direct to police or via a third party or online.”

The Met Police stressed that it employs more than 900 specialist officers across London dedicated to investigating hate crime.


 

If you have any information on a hate crime in Waltham Forest:

In an emergency call 999

In a non-emergency call 101

Visit online.met.police.uk

You can also contact the charity Crimestoppers anonymously:

Call 0800 555 111

Visit crimestoppers-uk.org

For the latest crime statistics from the Met Police:

Visit www.met.police.uk/crimefigures