By Juan Cole
Hate crimes are up 30% in the UK over the previous year, rising from 62,518 reported offenses in 2015-16 (the year ends in March). The following year, 2016-17, that number rose to 80,393. Brexit and Islamophobic reactions against extremist terrorism are thought to explain the increase.
At the same time, violent crime is up by 13% in the UK this past year. Why that should be is unclear, since crime had been falling during the previous decades. Some of the increase, however, is simply greater willingness to report such crimes and better police record-keeping. Violent crimes tracked included knife crime, sexual offenses and violence against the person.
The murder rate was up 8% to 629 deaths, and the official report excluded the 35 killed in terrorism in Manchester and London.
On the other hand, the increase of violent crimes apart from murder could be an optical illusion. The BBC says, “The separate Crime Survey of England and Wales, which estimates offences including those that are not reported to police, suggests that 2016 crime levels were broadly stable with 2015.” That is, more violent crimes may be being reported than in the past. You have to wonder whether social media and ubiquitous closed circuit tv on Britain’s streets are implicated in the rise of victims reporting crimes to police. Since we’re now all under surveillance and Facebook and Twitter friends know when something awful happened to us, we may as well tell the police, too.
But here’s the real kicker. The BBC points out, “about two in every 100 adults had been victims of violent crime last year, compared with a peak in 1995 of five in every 100 adults.” .
That is, there has been a profound reduction in the percentage of Britons affected by violent crime over the past twenty years. At the same time, millions of immigrants have come in, including Muslims (the Muslim population in Britain has doubled over this period). So we can only conclude that high immigration rates, which began after 1995, go along with a reduction in the proportion of the population affected by violent crime.
Predictably, Trump managed falsely to blame the increases on Britain’s small Muslim population, which is 4.3 percent of the population of 65 million.
This sort of conspiracy theory is extremely dangerous, and is the sort of thing that led to the Nazi genocide of German Jews. As it is, Trump is feeding into the trend toward increased hate crimes against minorities in the UK with which I began this essay.
The slight increase in violent crime, after two decades of steep decline, is completely unrelated to British Muslims.
Violence is connected to poverty, but it is as connected to white Christian poverty as to any other kind. A study that looked at the social class of perpetrators and victims, according to the Guardian, has been conducted on a scientific basis:
The problem of knife violence is disproportionately a problem of young men. But you cannot blame the younger generation, as the Guardian says, “the number of young people entering the criminal justice system for the first time nationwide is at the lowest rate for a decade.” Alcohol and drug use among young people in Britain have plummeted.
Trump wasn’t nearly as upset about the 59 people a right wing white guy gunned down in Las Vegas as about this small statistical fluctuation in another country. Nor has he tweeted about white supremacist violence against Muslims in Britain and France. He isn’t interested in reality, just in scapegoating those he’s already decided to hate, or those he thinks his constituency hates. Fascism.
(The author Juan Cole is the Richard P. Mitchell Collegiate Professor of History at the University of Michigan and the proprietor of the Informed Comment e-zine. He has written extensively on modern Islamic movements.)