North East police reveal mosque attack figures as cases rise across UK

Graffiti daubed on a mosque in Sunderland
Graffiti daubed on a mosque in Sunderland

Hate crimes targeting mosques and other Muslim places of worship across the UK more than doubled between 2016 and 2017, an investigation has found.

Police forces recorded 110 hate crimes directed at mosques between March and July this year, up from just 47 over the same period in 2016.

The numbers in the North East are low, but still show a rise from March to June 2016 to March to June 2017.

Durham Constabulary recorded one attack in the three-month period in 2016, and two in the same period in 2017.

Cleveland Police had none in the 2016 period, and one in the 2017 period.

Related: Sunderland mosque targeted in graffiti attack

Incidents nationally range from racist abuse and threats to "bomb the mosque" feature heavily among the hate crimes, as do incidents of offenders smashing windows on buildings and parked cars.

Other records include offensive graffiti sprayed on to buildings, violent assaults on worshippers, two cases of arson and two cases of individuals leaving bacon on door handles at mosques.

The figures were gathered by the Press Association using the Freedom of Information Act.

Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott called the figures "deeply troubling".

"Attacks on any religious group or minority are abominable," she said, adding: "These anti-Muslim attacks will be condemned by all decent people."

The data was obtained by the Press Association through Freedom of Information requests to UK police forces. The figures, based on 42 responses from 45 forces, also show:

:: 25 forces saw a year-on-year increase in hate crimes directed at mosques, with the biggest rise reported by Greater Manchester Police (nine crimes, up from zero) and London's Metropolitan Police (17 crimes, up from eight).

:: Threats, harassment or other intimidating behaviour more than tripled, from 14 crimes in 2016 to 49 in 2017.

:: Violent crime against individuals more than doubled from five recorded crimes against worshippers at mosques in 2016 to 11 crimes in 2017.

:: Crimes recorded as vandalism or criminal damage increased from 12 in 2016 to 15 in 2017.

Due to differences in how police forces record their statistics and the fact that not all forces are included in the figures, the true number of hate crimes directed at mosques is likely to be higher still.

Britain endured a number of terror attacks claimed by Islamic State over the period in which the crimes were recorded, at London Bridge, Westminster and Manchester.

The figures come to light within weeks of separate incidents in which an imam and surgeon who treated Manchester bombing victims was stabbed outside a mosque in Cheshire and a 14-year-old boy was stabbed multiple times in the face and neck outside a mosque in Birmingham.

Other high-profile cases of hate crime at mosques this year include the Finsbury Park terror attack in June, a Manchester mosque gutted by fire in an arson attack in July and the sending of a white powder and bomb threats to three mosques across London in July.

While police found the powder to be harmless, Erkin Guney, a community leader at one of the mosques targeted by the letters, called the threats "heartbreaking".

The Shacklewell Lane Mosque in north London, where Mr Guney is funeral director, has seen "attacks by the BNP, pigs' heads thrown at the door and buildings set alight" over the years since his father founded the mosque in the 1970s, he said.

"Have I got to worry about people getting knocked up in the air?" said Mr Guney.

"That's a really heavy responsibility. Now to worry that people are going to die on my doorstep is heartbreaking.

"I'm not concerned about myself, I'm concerned about the public and the people that come here," he added.

"We've got community events that take place here. Everyone comes, it's not just about Muslims in the mosque."

More than 50 places of worship, almost half of them mosques, applied for the most recent round of anti-hate crime funding from the Government, which ended in June.

Applications for funding, intended to provide security measures, were made available to all places of worship in April and May but extended into June after terror attacks at the start of the summer.

Ms Abbott called on the Home Office to publish data on hate crimes against all places of worship "as a matter of course" after "worrying reports of attacks on synagogues as well as mosques".

She said: "Politicians have a particular responsibility in the language they use, the policies they advocate and the climate they create.

"There should be a unanimous message that violence against any section of our society is unacceptable."

A Home Office spokesman said: "All forms of hate crime are completely unacceptable and the UK has some of the strongest laws in the world to tackle it."