London, Feb. 6 (Reuters): Race hate crime in “melting pot” Britain rose by a fifth last year, according to the first official figures since the September 11 attacks in 2001 increased friction between the UK’s diverse communities.
Muslims say they have sensed increased hostility on the streets since Britain signed up to the US-led “war on terror”, with police raids netting dozens of alleged Islamic militants.
Religious hate crime — a new offence under anti-terrorism legislation — was only reported 15 times. But police passed 3,728 cases of racially motivated crime to public prosecutors in the year to April 2002, up 20 percent on the preceding year.
“These figures demonstrate that race hate crime is a terrible social problem that is not going away,” a spokeswoman for the state-funded Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) said today.
“The numbers of cases have been rising steadily year by year since racial motivation was introduced as a criminal offence in 1998,” she added.
London is fast becoming the world’s most racially diverse city with over 300 languages spoken, compared to 120 in the original melting pot city New York, according to the mayor’s race advisor Lee Jasper.
He recently estimated that 60 percent of the capital’s 7.5 million population is made up of ethnic minorities.
The latest government figures show that the largely Muslim Pakistani community is almost twice as vulnerable to race hate crime as the black community.
The new figures were revealed as the Crown Prosecution Service called on community groups for guidance in tackling race crime.
“A society where its citizens have no confidence in the delivery of justice cannot be regarded as truly democratic,” Britain’s top judge Lord Goldsmith said in a statement.
Racial tensions have been stoked in Britain both by the far right and by a number of extremist Muslim preachers.
Widespread hysteria over asylum seekers has gripped the newspapers in recent months, with Britain’s opposition Conservative party calling for all immigrants to be locked up until they can be cleared of any links to terrorism.
The far-right British National Party, whose policies include encouraging non-whites to return to their countries of ethnic origin, have won new support and gained several council seats in the north of England.
Today’s figures were released by the attorney general’s office ahead of a more detailed report.
The CRE said the figures might reflect increased public confidence in reporting race crime, adding that improvements could still be made. “Too many victims simply do not come forward,” said the spokeswoman.