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Theories for Hate Crimes: Focusing on Islamophobia

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Criminology
Wordcount: 4461 words Published: 8th Feb 2020

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Through studying the 5 monitored strands of hate crime, the report will look closely and maintain a focus upon religion and belief, prioritising around Islamophobia. As well looking at why certain individuals of different religions are attacked physically and verbally based on their beliefs and core identity. When a hate crime is committed, it is done to send a message to a community or group. This can be supported by hate crime being a ‘qualitative distinct form of aggression’ indicating the perpetrator’s bias and prejudice (Perry, B., 2003). The Metropolitan Police (2018) define hate crime as; “Any criminal offence which is perceived by the victim or any other person, to be motivated by hostility or prejudice based on a person’s race or perceived race; religion or perceived religion; sexual orientation or perceived sexual orientation; disability or perceived disability and any crime motivated by hostility or prejudice against a person who is transgender or perceived to be transgender.” When focusing on religiously motivated hate crime, Section 28 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 ‘defines “religious group” as a group of persons defined by reference to religious belief or lack of religious belief. This too is a wide definition and underlines that hostility can be targeted at faith communities new or old, be sectarian in nature, be directed at converts and those of no faith.’

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When addressing what religiously motivated hate crime is, the main focus will be outlining how big the problem is and the types of attacks that are taking place in England and Wales, the theories and cases in which help individuals understand this type of prejudice, how the problem can be prevented and how victims can be supported and finally, what might the future of policy look like. Cases and theories such the Manchester Arena Attack, Allport’s Scale of Prejudice Theory and Bandura’s Social Learning Theory all focus on hate crime and will be mentioned within the report.

Section 1: Outline the Scale and Scope of the Problem in England and Wales

When somebody does not believe in other individual’s values or beliefs and feel incitement to hatred or commit a verbal or physical attack, it becomes a religious hate crime. Communities such as Gypsies, Travellers, Asylum Seekers, Muslims, Hindus, Jews, Sikhs, Christians and those of no or lack of faith all have encountered some type of prejudice within past years (Crown Prosecution Service, 2016). Hate crime offenders can be split into three categories based on what motivates them: offenders who commit for the thrill and excitement; offenders who are protecting their community; and a group of people who want to remove a particular group out of society (Levin and McDevitt, 1993).

According to the Home Office, between 2017/2018, there were 8,336 religious hate crimes recorded in England and Wales showing a significantly big increase from 2011/2012 where 1,618 religious hate crimes were recorded. With these hate crimes recorded, it is important to also take into consideration the amount of hate crimes which go unreported. This could be because of somebody being threatened or scared to do so. According to the University of Huddersfield (2016), there are around 170,000 hate crimes not reported each year. This information shows how important of a problem this is and how something needs to be done to decrease that number. In 2017, following on from the deadly terrorist incidents in 2016, Islamophobia amplified by 40% in Greater London. Subsequently, the amount of attacks upon Muslim places of worship scaled to 110 from 47 from the preceding year (Halliday, J., 2017).

Correspondingly, between the years of 2012 and 2014, the Leicester Hate Crime Project team conducted research recording the views of 1,421 victims of hate crime, prejudice and targeted hostility. The following figures show how important of a problem religious hate crime is. 69% of the 1,421 individuals had experienced some form of threatening behaviour, bulling or harassment. Compared to this, 39% had been a victim of violent crime with most of violent crime being targeted towards Hindu and Muslim people compared to other religious groups. This type of hatred impacts victims massively from being left traumatised to feeling afraid of doing daily activities like leaving the house for example. In the project, 58% had avoided certain areas and subsequently, 29% had improved home security because of feeling unsafe (The Leicester Hate Crime Project). With this being an official ran project interacting and interviewing individuals of different religions, it shows that the statistics shown are reliable and can be trusted.

Some examples of the types of hate crimes committed in the past are arson attacks on mosques, pig head’s and bacon being left at the front doors of Muslim’s mosques and houses, physical attacks, verbal attacks in the street for example, harassment and robbery. Additionally, terrorist incidences relating to Islamophobia such as the Westminster and London Bridge attacks, Manchester Arena Attack, London bombings, online Islamic State executions and the Lee Rigby incident have all triggered an atmosphere of political fluidity, heightened tension and perceived insecurity; although, it has as well ‘nurtured dominant narratives of securitisation, from integration and immigration to political/social participation and adherence to ‘British values’’ (Merali, A 2007). The sentiment expressed in the quotation, embodies the view that the relationship between communities is proving particularly tough. These types of attacks that get broadcasted over the news and social media send shockwaves through the nation showing how somebody has wanted to hurt others based upon their religion. If people do not accept different religions within society, the number of hate crimes will consistently increase, and the problem will increasingly grow.

Section 2: How does Theory Help Us to Understand This Type of Prejudice?

Different theorists help people understand religious hate crime as a type of prejudice debating whether it lies under individual personality or wider social factors. Burke (2017) views religious hate crime as it being triggered by an event, his example being a Muslim or black family moving into a new neighbourhood. He suggests that ‘unlike thrill-seekers, who invade other neighbourhoods and attack without warning, “defenders” target specific victims and justify their crimes as necessary to keep threats a bay (Burke, D., 2017).’ The English Defence League, part of the far-right organisations, is an organised hate group and would be part of this as they oppose against Islamism and Islamic extremism (Joyce, P., & Wain, N). Burke’s, Joyce’s and Wain’s theories can all explain not just religious but racist hate crime. Social, economic and psychological factors can motivate hate crime offenders. These hate crime offenders will likely go for ‘revenge’ in groups or gangs where they gain ‘in-group approval’ from other members (Tajfel and Turner, 1986). For retaliatory offenders who abide by the ‘eye-for-an-eye’ approach, if an act of terrorism takes place it is likely that Muslims will be targeted to get ‘revenge’. Supporting this, hate crimes against Arabs and Muslims have risen by 1,600%. A similar spike after the Paris attacks in 2015 (Burke, D., 2017). This is supported by Bandura’s Social Learning Theory of how individuals are brought up through childhood, watching other people like parents or the media of how they would seek revenge (Bandura, A.,1969). Relating this to Burke’s theory, it suggests how children may grow up copying and interpreting the actions of those around them. For example, a child may watch their parents be physically or verbally abusive towards somebody of another religion and think it is acceptable to copy. This can be the same for any other prejudice such as homophobic, racist, disability and gender-identity.

From a psychological perspective, Allport’s (1954) Scale of Prejudice suggests that prejudice establishes itself in actions but is divided into 5 categories depending on the offender and strength of hate crime. The first factor being ‘disparaging terms’ could be as simple as the discussion of hate crime. ‘Avoidance’ is when the prejudice becomes more seeming as the person avoids members of such religious group. Thirdly, ‘discrimination’ is making a distinction towards those of a religious group. Fourthly, ‘physical attacks,’ are placed on a victim because of their identity. In 2016, a 13-year-old boy named as Bailey Anderson was beaten for being protestant whilst simply walking down the street (BBC News). Lastly, is ‘extermination’ which can be closely linked with the holocaust or the online executions performed by the Islamic State from 2014 (Allport, G., 1954 & Gavin, H., 2018).

This theory is good at recognising where members fit in society for hate crime although it struggles to explain why hate crime occurs which limits the use and knowledge within the theory. Religious hate crime can lie within an individual’s personality as well as wider social factors. Like all hate crimes, people can learn to discriminate through learning from other people and it becomes part of them but also, hate crimes can be carried out because of economic, political and social factors. These could be factors such as being uneducated, the wealth of a person or group, being unemployed, success, and material possessions for example (Merton, R., 1957). Merton describes the Strain theory as this but between other theorists, it is debated for and against explaining this type of prejudice. Perry (2003) sees the strain theory not explaining hate crime because hate crime offenders maintain power over others and is committed by the privileged; although, Walters (2011) sees that the strain theory does explain hate crime because hate crimes offenders are those who lack ‘self-control’ when prejudiced against and those who when drink alcohol, it diminishes their inhibitions.

Section 3: Provide Examples of Policies That Have Been Implemented to Tackle the Problem and Support Victims

For hate crime to be controlled, there are numerous polices in place to tackle the problem and support the victims involved in hate crime offences. One of these policies is the Crime and Disorder Act 1998. Sections 28 to 32 relate to racially and religiously aggravated hate crimes such as stalking, harassment, threatening or abusive behaviour, wounding, assault or damage. Section 28 explains how this hate crime offence is driven by hostility towards associates of a racial or religious group based on their involvement to that group. Section 29 of this legislation explains how an individual is guilty of a hate crime if malicious wounding, assault or grievous/any bodily harm is caused to a member of an opposite religious group, as well stated under section 20 and 47 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861. Section 30 relates to damage to property with it being religiously aggravated. This links to the Criminal Damage Act 1971. The next section, section 31, is having the fear or provocation of violence linking to the Public Order Act 1986. Lastly, section 32 relates to any individual being targeted for their religion whilst being harassed or stalked, is afraid of violence or is distressed from somebody of another group. This links under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997. The Criminal Justice Act 2003 would also be taken into consideration based upon the seriousness of the offence and the aggravation. This legislation is all in place to tackle hate crime and prosecute any person targeting somebody because of who they are.

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In 2017, the Runnymede Trust explained how they officially wanted Islamophobia to be defined at “anti-Muslim racism”. Through the years, Islamophobia has become embedded in everyday life and establishments. Like the Hate Crime Awareness Week introduced by Stop Hate UK, The Runnymede Trust has raised awareness of Islamophobia and has demonstrated an alarming growth and standardisation of political and ‘social field populated by hostile narratives centring on security, identity, nativism, acceptance of ‘British values’, and integration’ (Elahi, Farah and Khan, O. 2017). Together with the Stand up! project run by Streetwise, it is aiming at fight antisemitism and islamophobia amongst young persons. This project is to challenge young individuals to eliminate any stereotypes they hold about other communities and religions and to tackle any hateful opinions they have. It also teaches them about the consequences of being discriminative (Tell MAMA, 2017). This would be a good idea to have in schools to reduce hate crime.

The Equality Act 2010 is an additional piece of legislation implemented into tackling religious hate crime and supporting any victim targeted for their religion. It works with other pieces of legislation to protect individuals from discrimination in the workplace, in education, through public services, when buying or renting a property and being a member of a club for example. Section 10 of the Equality Act can prosecute a person if any reference is made towards a person, group or community of a particular religion or belief. According to Watchdog, the police are not doing enough to tackle hate crime as seen in the fact that ‘more than 3,000 recorded racially or religiously aggravated offences were not flagged as hate crimes’ (BBC News, 2018).

Section 4: In Relation to Your Chosen Topic Area, What Might the Future of Policy Look Like?

In relation to Islamophobia, the future of policy for supporting victims, reducing prejudice and improving the outcomes could vary. Over the past few years, especially for 2016/17, Islamophobia has increased hugely. With various terrorist attacks occurring over the year, it has left deep concern for the future and how religious hate crime offences are increasing. There are different recommendations for improving the outcomes of religiously aggravated hate crimes, one being promoting an ethos of transparency and passing a stronger message that every person is equal. This could be through media, policing, or how the criminal justice system treats people of different religions and how the police stereotype when they perform stop and searches. Another factor to reduce prejudice and improve the outcomes is through strengthening the ways to fight hate speech in social media, making it clear to people that social media is a ‘breeding ground’ for taboo-breaking behaviour. Messages through social media can influence people’s opinions and actions when conducted into reality. Especially for young people, it is important that the beliefs towards discrimination are challenged in schools and at home before they become more deeply entrenched (Home Office, 2018).

Following on from this, there should be more effective action from the government into tackling inequality and reducing the probability of somebody being discriminated against for who they are. In 2016, the government published the Hate Crime Action Plan helping support families, victims, communities and the wider society. The new action plan updated in 2018 has stated how there is a gap in the crime reported and that which is not being reported. This mentioned how the government want to “build strong, integrated communities, as set out in the Integrated Communities Strategy Green Paper we published in March 2018. We want to build communities where people – whatever their background – live, work, learn and socialise together, based around shared rights, responsibilities and opportunities” (Home Office, 2018).

Fitting in with racially aggravated offences, religious hate crime can be punishable through the Public Order Act 1986 and the Crime and Disorder Act 1995 (Gov.uk, 2017). From the knowledge and policies stated, religiously aggravated, disability, sexual orientation and gender identity hate crimes are being fought, however, it is felt that they may not be seen as important of those hate crime offences like race (Criminal Justice System). In society, religious and racially aggravated hate crime are more prevalent with most police data and offences recorded being from these types of attacks (National Crime Statistics. Future policy should be explored more by the government, the police and the crown prosecution service as well as those within the public, private and economic sector. All 5 monitored strands of hate crime go unreported but especially offences towards disability and gender identity (Home Office).


From what has been analysed in the report, Islamophobia will continue to frustrate and upset individuals through hate crime offences. Over the years, religious hate crime has been on the increase, although many polices, organisations and third-sector parties are working together to tackle the problem and reduce the number of victims daily.

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