Andrew Gilligan has a piece on his Telegraph blog, titled “Islamophobic crime fell in London last year – MCB spins the opposite”, in which he responds to the Independent on Sunday report on rising anti-Muslim hatred in the UK.
Gilligan accuses the Muslim Council of Britain’s secretary-general Farooq Murad of falsely claiming that hate crime against Muslims has risen in London. Now, I realise that Gilligan is the Telegraph‘s London editor and has a bit of an obsession with events in the capital, but if he had bothered to read the Independent report properly he would see that Farooq Murad was referring to the situation nationally, and made no reference to London.
Gilligan goes on to assert that “anti-Muslim hatred in Britain … is, thankfully, diminishing”, although he offers no real evidence for this. True, as the Independent article points out, police data on Islamophobic offences are not collated centrally and many forces do not compile such statistics at all, so hard evidence regarding hate crime nationally is lacking. However, you might have thought that the secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain would be in a better position than Gilligan to make an informed judgement on whether anti-Muslim hatred is on the increase across the UK.
And then there is the question of whether the figures for London are themselves reliable, given that a spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police accepts that hate crime against Muslims has been significantly under-reported. Indeed, taking the Met’s figures at face value, Gilligan would be forced to conclude that between 2008 and 2009 there was a massive rise in anti-Muslim hatred in London, with Islamophobic offences increasing from 106 to 368 and incidents of religiously motivated violence against Muslims from 96 to 303.
Of course, you can understand why Gilligan might have an interest in denying that there is a problem with rising Islamophobia in the UK, and in accusing the Independent of having fallen for “the Islamists’ grievance-mongering agenda” – because his disgraceful witch-hunting of the East London Mosque has fed the very anti-Muslim hatred whose existence he denies.
Update: See also “Andrew Gilligan on anti-Muslim hate crimes”,ENGAGE, 14 June 2011