‘A more rigorous approach’ is needed to tackle anti-Muslim hate crime, says TELL MAMA

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Originally published on The City Scoop

A batch of freedom of information requests revealed increasing levels of hate crimes against Muslims in the UK after the beheading of soldier Lee Rigby in Woolwich, south-east London.

Picture of the Blackburn prayer hall facility in #Muslim graveyard that was spray-painted.

Picture of the Blackburn prayer hall facility in Muslim graveyard that was spray-painted.

Broken down, the figures show that  from September 2012 to September 2013, there has been a 68% increase in anti-Muslim hate crime in Tower Hamlets, a 475% increase in the London Borough of Greenwich, a 50% increase in Hackney, and a 200% increase in Lambeth.

However, anti-Muslim hate crimes in London are reducing from its peak after the murder of soldier Lee Rigby’s murder in May.

TELL MAMA, an organisation that records anti-Muslim attacks, said that from March 2012 to March 2013, they dealt with 582 anti-Muslim cases, but expected that figure to rise by almost 50% this year.

After the brutal racist killing of Stephen Lawrence, the Mcpaherson recommenations outlined a system where people to report hate crimes to an independent organisation such as TELL MAMA, who would then pass that information to the police so that the incidents could be formally logged.

Fiyaz Mujhal, director of Faith Matters, which runs the MAMA project, said: “The far right groups, particularly the EDL use the internet and social media to promote vast amounts of online hate.

The group claims that “a more rigorous approach” is needed to documenting cases of hate crime then the ones currently in place.

However, according the Guardian, a CPS spokeswoman said that online material must be more than “simply offensive” to be breaking the law.

They said: “In order to preserve the right to free speech the threshold for prosecution must be high and only communications that are grossly offensive, indecent, obscene or false are prohibited by the legislation.

Earlier this year, a YouGov poll suggested that the number of those who believe clashes, such as the infamous Rigby event, are inevitable – up by a staggering 9% from last year.

There has also been a small increase in the proportion of people who believe British Muslims pose a serious threat to democracy, up to 34% on Thursday and Friday from 30% in November 2012.

Response to findings

Andrew Gillian, London editor of the Sunday Telegraph, said in June earlier this year, that most of the crimes reported by TELL MAMA did not constitute as violence again Muslims, as some of the incidents reported consisted of posts on facebook, twitter and various blogs.

According to /u/cantered, a poster on the internet forum Reddit, “If that’s a “hate crime” then half of /worldnews is about to be summoned before The Hague. And judging by some of the posts here the other half would be enthusiastically applauding.”

In the article Andrew states that 57 per cent of the incidents only took place online.

He said: “Tell Mama has no written definition of what it classes as an anti-Muslim incident, but has in the past adopted a wide definition.”

However, the interfaith organisation responded to the attacks by the Sunday Telegraph editor, posting a transcript of the whole conversation with the reporter along with a blog post clarifying issues raised in the article.

They said: “Keep the Focus the Victims, not TELL MAMA.

“Gilligan regards on-line hate incidents as being minor or peripheral in nature and he refers to them as such within the article. He does not describe the impact they have on people, the emotional disturbance that they may cause and the distress that they clearly cause to many victims.

“This material is pervasive in the on-line world and if we attempted to trawl through such postings, we would simply be inundated.”

When should hate speech be criminalised?

This incident brings to the forefront an important issue – the delicate balancing act between differrent rights.

Criminalising on-line communications can be a breach of our freedom of expression, as guaranteed by Article 10 of the European convention of human rights.

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

However, governments tend to recognize limits on this right, particularly when freedom of speech conflicts with other values or rights.

Limitations to freedom of speech can be applied to hate speech, as they can stoke racial tensions and incite violence, ultimately causing harm to individuals.

So the question remains, when does online hate speech become a criminal offence?

After the Woolwich incident, two men were arrested and held under the Public Order Act on suspicion of inciting racial or religious hatred, after ‘racist and anti-religious’ comments about death of Lee Rigby posted on Twitter.

Shaun Tuck, 26, was jailed for 12 weeks for encouraging people to ‘bomb and gas every mosque in England’ following the murder of Lee Rigby, as well as calling for Muslim children to be beheaded in a drunken Twitter rant.

What about the following tweets – should posting these be an indictable offence?

Muslim paedophile gangs dirty islamic scum, beheadings what next at least EDL stand up and be heard!!This is England

“#muslims..It works both ways you angry idiots. Get out of our countries and we might leave yours alone #milkers #edl”

“Not necessary2say ‘radical #Islam’ as this cult is by nature already radical! Needs2b outlawed! #Muslims #sharia #taqiyya #dhimmi #MSM #tcot”

“On the tv last night, most of the news had something to do with #muslims in some way…mostly bad of course! #islamisevil #terroristscum”




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