Anti-Muslim hate crimes are to be recorded as a separate category for the first time by police in England and Wales, bringing Islamophobia in line with anti-semitic attacks targeting Jews, which have been recorded separately for some time.
It was announced as the Home Office prepared to unveil new statistics which are expected to show a rise in numbers of hate crimes over the past year, continuing the trend seen in 2013/14, when offences involving religious hatred soared by 45% and race hate crime by 4% in the wake of the murder of soldier Lee Rigby.
Mr Cameron also announced he will provide new funding to boost security at religious buildings, as he hosted the first meeting of a new Community Engagement Forum at Downing Street.
The Forum brings together representatives of faiths including Islam from around the country, and is intended to provide the PM with an opportunity to hear directly from those challenging extremism in the community.
Announcing its creation in a speech in Birmingham in July, Mr Cameron said it was part of a drive to isolate extremists and “actively encourage reforming and moderate voices” in Muslim communities.
Downing Street said the Forum will discuss the objectives of the Government’s upcoming counter-extremism strategy, which is due for publication later this month and will include plans for a national coalition to challenge and speak out against extremism. The meeting will also consider what more the authorities can do to help support young British Muslims.
Speaking ahead of the meeting, the Prime Minister 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.”
Official Home Office figures showed that police forces in England and Wales recorded 2,273 crimes perceived to be motivated by religious hostility in 2013/14, up 45% from the 1,573 recoded in 2012/13. Over the same period, recorded race hate crimes increased by 4% from 35,889 to 37,484.
The increases were ascribed by an official report at the time in part to the fallout from Fusilier Rigby’s murder by Islamist extremists in south-east London in May 2013.
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 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.”
The All Party Parliamentary Group on anti-Semitim tweeted that it was “good news that anti-muslim hate crime to be disaggregated from other hate crime in police recording. Antisemitism is due to our efforts. Always keen that efforts to combat anti-Semitism can deliver for other victims of hate crime.”
The Community Security Trust told Jewish News: “We welcome the decision to provide separate figures for anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic hate crime as this will help Police, government and communities to better understand and tackle both types of hate crime.”
Downing Street said no figure has yet been decided for the additional funding to protect places of worship, which will be fixed following discussion with members of the new Forum.
Fiyaz Mughal, director of inter-faith organisation Faith Matters, which runs a helpline called Tell MAMA for victims of anti-Muslim violence, welcomed the move.
“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.
“Whilst we receive community reports from the heart of Muslim communities, getting a wider assessment is key and our national agreement with police forces will also provide us with this greater insight if police forces are recording uniformly.
“The Prime Minister needs to be commended for this.”