Why we don’t police anti-Christian hate

Jewish and Muslim communities rightly get protections and attention from the government — but Christians are routinely overlooked

Artillery Row

In the last few weeks, the government has announced a considerable package of funding to enhance security of Jewish and Islamic institutions. Rishi Sunak pledged to give the Community Security Trust (CST), which protects Jewish sites, more than £70 million, as part of the Jewish Community Protective Security Grant. Moreover, the government also committed to provide UK Muslims with more than £117 million of protective security funding too (£34.3 million allocated for this year alone) — both pledges are for over the period of the next 4 years. The reported increase in incidents targeting both communities since the outbreak of the Israel-Palestine conflict, has been cited as a reason why. The 14-fold larger Muslim population vs Jews (in England and Wales) has also been used to justify the proportion of relative funding allocated. Meanwhile Labour have said they will order police to record ‘non-hate crime incidents’, when it comes to prejudice against Jew and Muslims. The state has historically funded third-party hate crime reporting monitors — like Tell MAMA (anti-Muslim) and the CST (antisemitism). But whilst politicians continue to make various announcements with reference to safeguarding Jews and Muslims, do they risk marginalising other faiths, who also suffer prejudice and religiously motivated hatred?

There is of course a pressing need to protect Jewish and Muslim communities, especially given the increased targeting of both since October 7th. Some British Jews have even chosen to hide their identity for fear of attacks. However, despite a decrease in those who identify as ‘Christian’ according to the census from 59.3% to 46.2% in the ten years from 2011–2021, there remains an often-unspoken undercurrent of societal prejudice against them. 2020/21 figures indicate there were over 4,000 incidents of crime against churches (data from 40 police forces) — these includes theft, vandalism, assault, and burglary — some may well fit into the subjective category of ‘hate crime’ — if perceived to be by a victim, ‘or any other person’.

Indeed, the church statistics rightly resulted in calls for extra government funding. Some incidents against Christians are more blatant, like the man accused of a ‘religiously aggravated offence’, for attempting to rip a large cross from the roof of Chadwell Heath Baptist Church in Romford back in 2020, or the Pakistani Christian beaten up by Muslims for simply selling poppies. According to Home Office figures for 2022/23, there were 609 ‘perceived’ hate crime offences against Christians which accounts for nearly 10% of the total. Christian Street preachers are often arrested for promoting the gospel under the Public Order Act, and Christians have been arrested for the ‘thoughtcrime’ of praying silently outside abortion clinics. Yet, given all this, we see few (if any) politicians referring to ‘Christianophobia’, or anti-Christian hatred.

All this doesn’t mean the government is paying no attention to prejudice beyond that impacting Jews and Muslims. Last year, they announced £28 million would be available for the Places of Worship Protective Security Funding Scheme, and a new scheme — the Protective Security for Mosques Scheme, which is standalone, like the Jewish Community Protective Security Grant. Most of the £28 million funds were allocated for Islamic institutions (including schools) — only £3.5 million was allocated to non-Muslim or non-Jewish faiths. Freedom of information requests show for the first four years of the Places of Worship Protective Security Funding Scheme (2016-2020) — £1,643,732.50 was awarded to Mosques, £869,858.81 to Churches, £676,115.26 was awarded to Gurdwaras and £210,989.10 to Hindu Temples.

Nick Tolson, a former member of the Independent Advisory Board for the Places of Worship Security Panel and National Churchwatch Coordinator from between 2000 to 2022, told me he believes all faiths should be treated equally when it comes to funding. He said, ‘I accept that some faiths may have higher crime issues at different times but each application for funding should be considered individually whether large or small. Crime against churches is often assumed to be normal crime unless proven otherwise whereas crime against other faith communities is considered hate crime unless proven otherwise. This creates an imbalance in recording that crime which in turn can create disharmony between different faiths as one can seem to be treated differently from others.’

He went on: ‘It is often the one that shouts loudest that gets the Government funding rather than the ones that actually need funding. The Home Office makes it so complicated to get funding and insists on sending it to places of worship who suffer from hate crime as a priority so often ‘normal’ crime is classed as hate in order to meet targets. I am always wary of ‘official’ figures as they are almost always worked to meet the criteria for funding rather than the reality of the crime’.

Tolson’s comments suggest a bias in the government’s existing approach. He is not the first to suggest this, crossbench peer Lord Singh of Wimbledon, previously queried why there was no mention of hate crime against non-Abrahamic faiths in the government’s 2016 hate crime action planAction Against Hate. Indeed, the prioritisation of certain groups serves to marginalise others — especially less vocal groups. British Sikhs for example, have faced prejudice from both the far right and Islamic extremists. Since 9/11, when Sikh identity (the flowing beard and turban, or dastaar) was increasingly conflated with Al Qaeda’s Osama bin Laden and the Taliban, the backlash became pronounced. The first person to be killed in revenge for 9/11 was a Sikh gas station owner — Balbir Singh Sodhi in Arizona. The first place of worship attacked (petrol-bomb) here after 7/7, was a gurdwara in Kent. Several gurdwaras have been vandalized with anti-Muslim graffiti since. A Muslim man was arrested for vandalising a gurdwara in Derby in a ‘hate-crime’ back in 2020, and in 2015 there was an attempt to behead a Sikh dentist in Wales — a revenge attack for Lee Rigby, by a member of the now proscribed terrorist group — National Action. Remarkably, BBC Newsnight reported the incident as ‘Islamophobia’, with not even a mention of the word ‘Sikh’. Not one politician talked about safeguarding the Sikh community — not a peep.

It is not clear if the government’s latest funding announcement has factored in those victims or institutions, who are mistaken to be Muslim into the financial equation. Responses to freedom of information requests I’ve previously obtained, indicate almost one in three victims of ‘Islamophobic’ hate crime in London (2015) were non-Muslims (or of no recorded faith), this was over one in four the following year (2016) — and included — Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, Atheists and Hindus, due to the nature of perception-based reporting. So perhaps this could be a future consideration for civil servants.

There is discontent amongst some British Hindus, given the targeting of mandirs (Hindu temples) in Leicester and Birmingham, during the Hindu-Muslim civil unrest in 2022. Pandit Satish K Sharma the Director of the Global Hindu Federation and Fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society told me he feels the government is engaging in sectarian politics.

Sharma said, ‘During the Leicester disturbances, whilst multiple Hindu temples across the Midlands were targeted with religiously motivated violence and British Hindus threatened, not a single mosque was attacked, and yet the Government has since allocated over £100 million specifically for the protection of mosques.’

He went on, ‘To the best of my knowledge, in comparison to this sum, precious little funding has been earmarked for the protection of our temples.’

Jewish and Muslim institutions undoubtedly need protection. However, dedicated schemes for two groups could be interpreted as hierarchical. Perhaps a single pot for all faith institutions with proportionate funding allocated in a timely and needs-based manner would help encourage further inclusion of less vocal religious groups.

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