Hate crimes against mosques across Suffolk and Essex have sharply increased, it has been revealed.
Figures obtained by Press Association show the number of hates crimes targeting places of worship for Muslims recorded by police in the two counties has spiked from zero in March-June 2016, to five during the same period in 2017, with three in Essex and two in Suffolk.
Al Falah Braintree Islamic Centre was subjected to an arson attack in what police described as a hate crime.
Kashif Ahmad, imam at the centre, said there was a misunderstanding about the role of mosques, perpetuated by some mainstream media.
He said: “We had a mosque open day recently and we had a lot of people come through. I think the general perception is that mosques are a hotbed for extremism and it gets taught.
“A lot of people get their information from the media and Muslims often get tarred with the same brush whereas 99.99% are completely against the actions of ISIS and what they stand for.
“We need to talk to one another and understand what we all stand for.”
Mr Ahmad said there had been no further trouble since the attack and many people from the wider Essex community had contacted the mosque to show solidarity.
Audrey Ludwig, director of legal services at Ipswich and Suffolk Council for Racial Equality (ISCRE), said: “This is a very serious matter. It is both an attack on members of our communities in Suffolk but also an attack on the British values of religious tolerance and respect for everyone.”
ISCRE is a third party reporting centre for hate crime, which means it can take details from victims who may not want to approach police directly.
Chief Inspector Stuart Grimsey, of Suffolk Constabulary, said the two hates crimes recorded in March-June this year had been thoroughly investigated and no one had been injured or property damaged as a result of the incidents.
He added: “We want to reassure all our communities that hate crime will not be tolerated in any form.
“On a daily basis we scrutinise every single hate crime to understand any issues which may be emerging.
“We continue to work closely with members and leaders of mosques in our community to offer support and reassurance, increasing patrols etc when required.”
Mr Grimsey said police “remained concerned” that hate crime was under-reported and urged victims to speak out.
A spokewoman for Essex Police said: “It is concerning to see this increase but we know hate crime is significantly under-reported and greater awareness and confidence in the police response may have contributed to this rise.
“It is a small increase, but even one hate crime incident is one too many.
“We do not tolerate hate crime whether it’s an incident that takes place online or in the street.
“It’s important to let us know about hate crime to give us a chance to investigate and prosecute offenders and to ensure that victims and the wider community are protected.”
Source: East Anglian Daily Times: http://www.eadt.co.uk/news/hate-crimes-against-mosques-in-suffolk-and-essex-sharply-increase-new-figures-reveal-1-5229072