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Rise in Islamophobic hate crime recorded in Sheffield

A Freedom of Information request has revealed the stark reality for Muslim communities, with a significant increase in hate crime incidents reported to South Yorkshire Police in 2021.

Madina Masjid mosque

Madina Masjid Mosque in Lowfield, Sheffield.

Photo © Neil Theasby

There was a 43% increase in reports of Islamophobic hate crimes in Sheffield in 2021 compared to the previous year, South Yorkshire Police records obtained by Now Then through an information request show.

The rise, from 71 to 103 reported offences, continues a trend reflected in police records in recent years, in spite of Covid-19 lockdowns restricting social contact in 2021. The largest proportion (41%) of these offences were categorised as aggravated public fear offences, the most common year on year since 2018.

The records also show that the majority of hate crimes targeting Muslims in Sheffield do not reach a resolution, whether that’s a charge brought, a caution issued or a community-based resolution. Fewer than 15% of hate crimes in the year ending November 2021 were resolved in one of these ways.

28% of cases recorded in 2021 are considered closed cases with no suspect identified. Instances of closed cases increased from 9 cases in 2018 to 29 in 2021. A further third (30%) of cases in the year ending November 2021 had a named suspect but were dropped due to evidential difficulties.

The national picture

Nationally, anti-Muslim hate crimes have decreased slightly by around 5% since the year ending March 2019. But racially motivated hate crimes are increasing, with a rise of 12% in the year ending March 2021, compared to March 2019.

An issue when it comes to collecting data on anti-Muslim hate crimes is that the line between the categories ‘racially’ and ‘religiously’ motivated can become blurred. Muslims are not only targeted for their religion but are also perceived as racialised communities, especially since race and religion are intersecting identities for so many Muslims. Whether a hate crime is categorised as religiously or racially motivated could therefore rely on the subjectivity of the police when logging the incident, which can raise issues surrounding bias.

Islamophobia and anti-Muslim hate crimes make up the vast majority of religiously motivated hate crimes in the UK, with the latest data for the year ending March 2021 showing that hate crimes targeting Muslims made up 45% of these crimes. And when this is broken down to hate crimes around specific events, the numbers reveal an even more harrowing picture.

After the Manchester arena attack in May 2017, Islamophobia attacks rapidly increased by 500% in the month following the attack. Boris Johnson’s comments in a Daily Telegraph column in 2018, comparing veiled Muslim women to ‘letterboxes’, led to a 375% increase in Islamophobic incidents in the week following the published column. And in 2019, the week following the Christchurch shooting in New Zealand, Islamophobic incidents in the UK rocketed by 692%.

These latest hate crime figures for Sheffield present a bleak picture of the realities that Muslim communities are faced with on a regular basis, with more needing to be done to tackle Islamophobia at both a national and local level.

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