Islamophobic crimes rose after Westminster attacks, police reveal

Acting Commissioner Craig Mackey says if faith leaders hadn't responded quickly, hate crime would have been higher

Click to follow
The Independent Online

There has been an increase in Islamophobic hate crime in the wake of the Westminster terror attack, according to the acting Commissioner of London's Metropolitan Police

Craig Mackey said the force had seen a “slight uplift” in the number of anti-Muslim attacks the day after a terror attack which killed four people and injured 50 others last week

Khalid Masood, 52, drove a car into pedestrians walking along Westminster Bridge before stabbing an unarmed police officer.

He then attempted to run through the grounds but was shot dead by armed police. 

Speaking to the London Assembly’s Police and Crime Committee, Deputy Commissioner Mackey said the incident had provoked hatred among some sections of the community. 

However, there had been less than there was in the wake of the attacks on Paris and Brussels. 

He said: “We began tracking [Islamophobic activity] straight away and we keep that tracking in progress as we speak today.  We saw a slight uplift in what we call ‘Islamophobic incidents’ the day after the event but small and far smaller than we have seen in previous events.”

Praising faith leaders for their immediate response to the attack, he said he believed this was one of the reasons that Islamophobic hate crime was down on previous occasions. 

Fiyaz Mughal, founder of Islamophobic helpline Tell Mama, said the charity had seen a “measurable mini-spike” following the Westminster attack.

But like Deputy Commissioner Mackey, he said it was not as large as after the attacks on the Charlie Hebdo magazine offices in Paris, or the November 2015 attacks on the French capital. 

However, he took exception to another claim made by DC Mackey that social media companies should see the attack as a “wake up call” to step up their efforts to tackle extremist material online.

Facebook, Google and Twitter are among firms that have repeatedly faced calls to do more to detect and remove jihadist and other extreme videos and web pages. 

DC Mackey said: “I think these sorts of incidents and the others we've seen in Europe are probably a bit of a wake-up call for the industry in terms of trying to understand what it means to put your own house in order.

“If you are going to have ethical statements and talk about operating in an ethical way it actually has to mean something.”

But Mr Mughal said this was a “get out clause” used by the police and although they talked a lot about Islamist material, they did not take right wing extremism seriously

He told The Independent: “It’s not just extremist materials, the police don’t have an clear understanding of right wing, rhetoric and material. I’ve had to explain to them what far right material is to them and I’m not even a police officer.”

He said tech companies did not care about right wing material on their sites because Governments were only putting pressure on them about Islamist material. 

“On Islamist material they are great but on far right they don’t give a damn”, he said.