In Brief

Islamophobic attacks soar in London

Number of hate crimes against Muslims has risen by 70% – with veiled women particularly at risk

Hate crimes committed against Muslims in London have increased by 70 per cent in the last year, official figures reveal.

Metropolitan Police statistics show that Islamophobic attacks in the capital almost doubled in the 12 months until June, from 478 to 816.

Incidents ranged from online bullying to physical assaults and extreme violence, with women targeted the most, the BBC reports.

The London borough of Westminster saw the greatest number of attack, with 54 incidents reported, while the highest increase of 263 per cent was recorded  in Merton, south west London.

Tell Mama, an organisation which monitors Islamophobic incidents, said that the majority of victims were women who wear head scarves and veils.

"We realised that at a street level Muslim women who were visible, and wore the Hijab or the headscarf, were suffering more targeted abuse," said director Fiyaz Mughal.

"We also realised quite early on that women who wear Niqab, the face veil, suffered more aggressive incidents – there was something about the face veil that in a way brought out the worst in the perpetrator."

Commander Mak Chishty, who runs the force's hate crime unit, said there are a number of reasons why Muslim women are targeted more than men.

"Their physical attire obviously says they are Muslim, they are normally by themselves and with children and the cowardice shown by perpetrators is that it is easier to attack a women with children than it is a man," he said.

The Met has attributed the rise in part to a willingness of victims to come forward, as well as an increased awareness by officers who are more able to identify such offences. "No one should suffer in silence, so please report hate crime to us as soon as possible so we can act," said Chishty.

Joni Clarke, who recently converted to Islam, said she was forced to move her family across London after suffering daily abuse because of her clothing.

"The attacks affect my children deeply and I fear for their safety so I feel I have no choice but to move," she told BBC Inside Out. "People always say Muslims isolate themselves and we don't mix with others but actually it is others who don't want to mix with us."

Inside Out: Behind The Veil airs on BBC1 tonight at 7.30pm

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