LONDON: Britain has witnessed a surge in the incidents of religious hate crime over the past few years, mostly aimed at Muslims, according to official figures released Tuesday.
The UK Home Office data revealed that 94,098 hate crimes were recorded by the police in England and Wales in 2017-18, an increase of 17 per cent on the year before.
This annual increase equates to a 40 per cent spike for "religiously-aggravated hate crime", with 8,336 such crimes bring recorded in 2017-18 against 5,949 in the previous year.
The figures also indicate that most religious hate crime, 52 per cent of all offences, was aimed at Muslims or so-called Islamophobic hate crime.
The 2016 European Union (EU) referendum in favour of Brexit and terror attacks in the UK have been cited as some of the reasons behind the spike in the incidents of religious hate crime.
"This increase is thought to be largely driven by improvements in police recording, although there has been spikes in hate crime following certain events such as the EU Referendum and the terrorist attacks in 2017," the Home Office analysis says.
"Analysis of racially motivated hate crime by religion shows that Muslim adults were more likely to be a victim of racially motivated hate crime than other adults," it notes.
The Jewish community were the next most commonly targeted group, being targeted in 12 per cent of religious hate crimes.
Hate crime is defined as an offence which the victim considers to be driven by hostility towards their race, religion, sexual orientation, disability or transgender identity.
In the last year, race-based hate crime in Britain increased 14 per cent, while those based on sexual orientation increased 27 per cent, disability 30 per cent and transgender 32 per cent.
The latest figures coincide with the Home Office announcing a new National Hate Crime Plan to review whether offences driven by misogyny "the dislike, contempt or ingrained prejudice against women" should also be treated as hate crimes and therefore attract tougher sentences.
It will also explore whether crimes motivated by misandry, or prejudice against men, and attacks against the elderly based on ageism should be classed as hate crimes.
"Hate crime goes directly against the long-standing British values of unity, tolerance and mutual respect and I am committed to stamping this sickening behaviour out," UK home secretary Sajid Javid said at the launch of the action plan.
"Our refreshed action plan sets out how we will tackle the root causes of prejudice and racism, support hate crime victims and ensure offenders face the full force of the law," he said.
The plan includes over 1.5 million pounds of new funding for programmes that work with schools and young people to challenge discriminatory beliefs, promote positive discussions and encourage reporting.
"It is completely unacceptable that anyone should live in fear of intimidation and violence because of their beliefs or the colour of their skin.
We must challenge prejudice and intolerance, whenever and wherever it appears in our society," UK communities secretary Rt Hon James Brokenshire said.