Faith hate crimes in London reached a three-year high in May according to new police data.
The Met Police registered 352 faith hate crimes in May, surpassing the previous high of 248 in March 2019.
Reports of faith hate crimes – when an individual or group is targeted because of their religion or faith – have soared since the start of the year, rising from 120 in January, to 202 in April.
The rise has coincided with the easing of the Covid-19 lockdown and seen many religious groups grow fearful over their position in the city.
Senior minster at Christ Church Balham Andy Palmer said: ‘There a number of our congregation who feel being a public Christian, being vocal about your faith, almost isn’t allowed in our society today.
“The perception is that Christians aren’t allowed to express their faith or their beliefs without facing penalties.”
He said the church received hate online after being confused with the Christ the King on Balham High Road, which was shut down by police on Good Friday after some worshippers were caught without masks and not socially distancing.
Palmer added: “It was random people saying you’re despicable, I can’t believe you’re meeting, it’s outrageous, when in fact, it was perfectly legal.”
Head of external affairs for Ahmadiyya Muslim Community UK Mahmood Rafiq said members had not yet experience a rise in faith hate crimes in 2021, but that he was worried they would see a spike at the end of lockdown.
“The weather’s getting better, lockdown has virtually ended, there may be some pent up frustrations or issues and sometimes people just lash out,” he said.
“Sometimes it’s racism, sometimes it’s Islamophobia, sometimes it’s hard to tell what motivates the hatred we receive. They just scream, shout, and then run away.”
Lambeth was the highest south west London borough on 191, ahead of Hammersmith & Fulham on 170 and Wandsworth on 164.
Two south west London boroughs reported fewer than 70 incidents, putting them in the bottom three – Sutton and Richmond upon Thames, which reported 69 and 64 cases respectively.
Of all London boroughs, Barnet experienced the highest number of faith hate crimes in the last three years, recording 664 incidents, ahead of Westminster on 603.
Bexley recorded the lowest with 59.
The Met Police said faith hate crimes in response to events across the globe had risen substantially in the last 18 months.
A spokesperson said: “London epitomises what a truly international city should be – forward thinking, exciting and diverse. People from around the world make their home here and live happily alongside each other, but sadly, certain sections of our communities are subjected to deplorable abuse.
“Hate crime comes in many different forms and strikes at the heart of communities. We know there is public concern about increases in various forms of hate crime in response to events across the globe, especially over the last 18 months.
“Most recently we have seen incidents of anti-Semitism within the capital which have understandably caused considerable concern within our Jewish communities.
“Behaviour of this kind and abuse against any individual or group has no place in our city. We will not tolerate it and will act quickly and robustly in response to all reported crimes of this nature.
“Throughout 2020 and into 2021, Covid-19 also had a direct impact on hate crime in our communities. There was a rise in racially aggravated incidents, both on and offline, with certain communities targeted as a result of the pandemic.
“We have a dedicated team of engagement officers who work with organisations and faith leaders across London to reassure and protect places of worship and those attending them.
“We also have university liaison officers who provide information and support about hate crime to national and international students. We are also in contact with relevant embassies and sometimes refer some victims who are students to their embassies for further support.
“We continually work to find ways to improve the services we provide, specifically by seeking input from the people most affected by this crime and adapting our strategy.
“Officers are ready to investigate offences and support anyone who has been affected by someone else’s prejudice, ignorance, or violence.”
The spokesperson also urged residents to report hate crimes of any kind by calling police on 101, reporting online, or tweeting @MetCC.