Hate crimes against Muslims will be recorded under a new category by police in England and wales for the first time, David Cameron has announced. The move will now see Islamophobic attacks recorded in the same way as anti-Semitic attacks on Jewish people, which has been documented under a separate category to other hate crimes for many years.
The announcement arrives as the Home Office is set to reveal statistics which show a continuing rise in the number of hate crimes recorded in England and Wales. Home Office figures showed that police forces in England and Wales recorded 2,273 religious hate crimes in 2013/14, up 45% from the 1,573 in 2012/13, and race hate crimes increased by 4% from 35,889 to 37,484 over the same period.
The rise was attributed to by an official government report at the time to the fallout in the wake of the murder of Fusilier Lee Rigby, who was killed in a daylight attack by two Islamic fundamentalists in Woolwich, south-east London, in May 2013.
Cameron also announced the he will provide additional funding for security at religious buildings while hosting the first meeting of a new Community Engagement Forum at Downing Street. The Forum is intended to give the prime minster the chance to hear directly from people who are tackling extremism in their community.
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."
Home Secretary Theresa May said: "Hate crime has no place in Britain and I am determined to make further progress to ensure we can eradicate this deplorable act. Working with police to provide a breakdown in religious-based hate crime data will help forces to build community trust, target their resources and enable the public to hold them to account.
"Our Counter-Extremism Strategy will be published later this month [October] and will introduce a wide range of measures to defeat all forms of extremism. These will empower communities to confront extremist ideologies, and build more cohesive communities where everyone feels able to succeed."
Fiyaz Mughal, director of inter-faith organisation Faith Matters, which runs the Tell MAMA helpline for victims of anti-Muslim violence, welcomed the decison. He said: "The Prime Minister has shown clear leadership to tackle issues around anti-Muslim hatred and has consistently mentioned that Muslims should not be targeted because of a part of their identity.
"His Government have also stood firm on supporting work on the monitoring of anti-Muslim hatred and this call is a culmination of that. The Prime Minister has shown clear leadership on this area. We have been calling for this for some time and it will provide an indication of the scale of the issue."