Every police force in England and Wales will be required to record anti-Muslim hate crimes and treat them as seriously as anti-Semitic attacks if the Tories win the next General Election, Theresa May has announced.
In a move hailed by Islamic groups, Mrs May said that police will have to record Islamophobic attacks as a separate category, just as anti-Semitic crimes are recorded separately.
At present some forces, including London’s Metropolitan Police, do record Islamophobic crimes as such. Other forces categorise them as hate crimes or specific offences such as assault or grievous bodily harm.
Pledge: Home Secretary Theresa May said police will have to record Islamophobic attacks as a separate category
The new requirement will create the first accurate picture of the extent of Islamophobic hate crimes in Britain.
Charities say there has been a steady rise of anti-Muslim hate crimes since 9/11.
But after incidents such as the murder of Drummer Lee Rigby outside Woolwich barracks in 2013 and the Charlie Hebdo attacks in January, there are spikes in incidents in the UK, say experts.
Mrs May made her pledge in a speech on counter-extremism to the Foundation for Peace in London just before Parliament was dissolved.
She told the conference: ‘We will require police forces to record anti-Muslim crimes as well as anti-Semitic crimes.’
On the same day, Mrs May answered a question from Labour MP Kate Green in Parliament, who asked what steps the Government was taking to record anti-Muslim hate crimes.
Mrs May said: ‘A Conservative government would require the police to be recording Muslim hate crime, anti-Muslim incidents, as well as anti-Semitic incidents.’
The Home Office does not publish national statistics for Islamophobic offences.
The move by Mrs May, pictured here with Prime Minister David Cameron, has been hailed by Islamic groups
But in 2013-14, police recorded 44,480 hate crimes, an increase of five per cent over the same period the previous year across England and Wales. The vast majority – 37,484 – were race-hate crimes.
Tell Mama, a Government-backed Islamic group, said that more than half of all the victims (54 per cent) of Islamophobic incidents are women, perhaps because they ‘appear more Islamic’, wearing the burka or headscarf.
Tell Mama figures show that in the ten months after the Lee Rigby attack, a total of 734 incidents were reported to the organisation – an increase of 20 per cent on the same period the previous year.
The most serious incident is believed to be the frenzied knife attack on Saudi Arabian student Nahid Almanea, 31, in Colchester, Essex, in June last year.
Detectives believe she was attacked because she was wearing Islamic clothes. So far no one has been arrested for the murder.
Mohammed Amin, a patron of Tell Mama, said of Mrs May’s speech: ‘This is a positive step forward.’
The Muslim Council of Britain has also welcomed the proposal. Iqbal Sacranie, the group’s former Secretary-General, said: ‘This change will bring parity between Muslim and Jewish groups.’