Shocking statistics reveal 1000% surge in Islamophobic hate crime in Leeds

Arson attack at the Jamia Masjid Abu Huraira mosque in Beeston, June 2018
Arson attack at the Jamia Masjid Abu Huraira mosque in Beeston, June 2018

Islamophobic hate crime reported to police in Leeds has risen by more than 1000% in just five years.

A Freedom of Information request returned by West Yorkshire Police this month shows there were 261 reports of racially-aggravated crimes of an anti-Muslim nature in the city last year, up by 1035% from just 23 in 2013.

Qari Asim MBE, who is imam at the Makkah mosque in Hyde Park

Qari Asim MBE, who is imam at the Makkah mosque in Hyde Park

Crime included in the data includes reports of harassment, assault, inciting public fear and criminal damage, which were considered hate crimes.

Worst-affected areas included the Little London & Woodhouse, Gipton & Harehills and the Hunslet & Riverside wards.

The Little London ward had 112 reports of anti-Muslim hate crime in the five-year period, which was nearly double that of second on the list, Gipton, which had 62.

Also badly-hit by Islamophobic hate crime were Chapel Allerton, with 34 reports, Hunslet, with 59, and Burmantofts with 29. Harewood, Wetherby and Guiseley & Rawdon were the least-affected areas by hate crime with only one report in each area in the same period.

In June last year, arsonists targeted the Jamia Masjid Abu Huraira mosque in Beeston, alongside a nearby Sikh temple, when a flammable liquid was poured through the entrance and set alight.

Meanwhile, many Leeds Muslim residents have described being abused in the streets and told to "leave Britain".

Kauser Jan, an assistant head teacher from Moortown, said her mother was told to "speak ******* English" by a stallholder at Leeds Market. She also described an incident where a man visited a butcher's in Armley asking for pig's heads so he could "desecrate every mosque there is".

Kauser, who is a vocal campaigner against racism and part of various lobby groups, said: "Politicians bear a very large responsibility for the increase in Islamophobia. They are the ones we have elected to represent our views, but when you have mainstream politicians like Boris [Johnson] describing women in face veils as 'letterboxes', it only makes these attitudes acceptable."

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Qari Asim MBE, who is imam at Makkah mosque on Brudenell Road in Hyde Park, said a "toxic narrative" around Islam had been created by politicians, certain media and the resurgence of far-right parties.

He said: "I know member of my congregation who have been shouted at while waiting for a bus and intimidated in the streets. People just see someone who is different to them and see them as not-British."

He added: "There have been many incidents of women's headscarves being snatched in streets, and being asked to leave Britain. All of these are enough to make anyone feel scared and vulnerable in their own home, let alone on the street.

"The regular smears about Islam or Muslims by those in high offices and the sections of the mainstream media and the conflation of Islam with criminality must stop. There is a real danger that such prejudice will further stoke up anti-Muslim hatred and provide fuel for an already growing number of acts of violence against the Muslim community across the UK."

West Yorkshire Police have stated that one reason for the surge in reports of hate crime in recent years was due to a change in the way such reports are processed, although added that recent world events and growing publicity over Islamophobia in Britain was a reason why more victims were coming forward.

A spokesperson said: "The force has made improvements to how information about hate incidents is recorded. A number of sub-categories for the recording of faith and disability hate crimes are being introduced to get a better understanding of the impact of national and international events on local communities and improve and target services for victims.

"Recent publicity may also have encouraged victims of hate incidents and crimes to come forward and report their experience to the police."

Reports of Islamophobic hate crimes in Leeds for each year

2013 - 23

2014 - 27

2015 - 50

2016 - 105

2017 - 156

2018 - 261