The government said creating a separate category across the board would “enable police, prosecutors, councils and the communities they serve to have a better understanding of the prevalence of anti-Muslim hate crime and allocate resources accordingly.”
“It will provide the first accurate picture of the extent of anti-Muslim hate crime in England and Wales,” Downing Street said.
Advocacy group MEND – which works towards enhancing the engagement of British Muslims in national life – said the move was a step in the right direction.
In a statement on its website MEND said: “The quality of data on Islamophobia in the UK has been negatively affected by the lack of disaggregation of hate crime data. The most accurate readings available to date have been from the Metropolitan Police Service, who have long recorded Islamophobia as a separate category of crime. In its most recent data release, the Met noted a 71% increase in Islamophobia in London between July 2014 and July 2015.”The PM’s announcement today that all forces will now legally be required to record Islamophobia will improve available statistics and assist in the proper allocation of resources and service requirements to Muslim victims of hate crime…
“We have in recent months had good cause to question whether the Conservatives have been doing enough to take anti-Muslim hatred seriously. They look to have turned a page for the better and that is certainly worth commending.”
Meanwhile, the Muslim Council of Britain said that this had been an initiative that it – and other Muslim organisations – had been calling for for many years.
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Dr Shuja Shafi, the Secretary General of the MCB, said: “This is an important step to ensure that the growth in Islamophobia can be more accurately and credibly recorded, which we welcome wholeheartedly. We hope this is only the first step in treating Islamophobia seriously and ensuring all faiths are treated equally under the law.”
Police recorded 44,480 hate crimes in England and Wales during 2013-14. That was up 5% on the previous year across race, religion, sexual orientation, disability and transgender – the five key measures that feature in national figures.
But a further breakdown indicates there was a 45% jump in religiously motivated incidents to 2,273 – which an official report at the time said was partly down to more anti-Muslim incidents following the murder of Fusilier Lee Rigby by Islamic extremists in south-east London in May 2013.
“Community Engagement Forum”
Meanwhile, Mr Cameron also chaired the first meeting of a new “Community Engagement Forum” where he was expected to announce new funding for the security of all faith establishments, including mosques.
The forum, which was announced in July, will discuss the objectives of the government’s upcoming controversial counter-extremism strategy, which is due for publication later this month.
Speaking ahead of the meeting, Mr Cameron said: “We all have a role to play in confronting extremism. That’s why I have invited important Muslim and non-Muslim figures to join the new community engagement forum so I can hear directly about their work in our communities, the challenges they face and so that they can be part of our one nation strategy to defeat it.
“I want to build a national coalition to challenge and speak out against extremists and the poison they peddle. I want British Muslims to know we will back them to stand against those who spread hate and to counter the narrative which says Muslims do not feel British.
“And I want police to take more action against those who persecute others simply because of their religion.”
The guests at the “Community Engagement Forum” have not been revealed but the controversial Quilliam Foundation was invited.
Britain’s largest umbrella group – the Muslim Council of Britain – were not invited and they have questioned how representative the forum is.