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Scottish Council of Jewish Communities (SCoJeC)
Scottish Council of Jewish Communities (SCoJeC)
Scottish Council of Jewish Communities (SCoJeC)


Religious Hate Crime Trends

20 June 2013

The Scottish Government has announced a welcome decrease in sectarian crime between Protestants and Catholics, with charges down from 862 to 587. However, for the minority religions, it seems to be a very different story.

The number of charges for "conduct derogatory to Islam" increased from 19 to 80, although the report explains that almost all the increase is attributable to a single event, 57 charges following a Scottish Defence League march in Glasgow. The increase from 14 to 27 charges for antisemitism does not have such a simple explanation, although a majority of the offences were committed on the internet.

Because the numbers themselves are very small in comparison to intra-Christian sectarianism, the increase in religious hatred directed against minority religions tends not to attract comment. But it should be a matter of concern that, as confirmed by a recent parliamentary answer, relative to the sizes of the different communities, Muslims are almost 10 times, and Jews more than 20 times, as likely as Christians to be the victim of religious hatred. Indeed, discounting the one anti-Muslim rally, Judaism is almost 8 times more likely than Islam to be the subject of religious hatred.

number of
charges 2012-13
number of
charges 2011-12
size of community
(2001 census*)
charges per
10,000 members
charges per
10,000 members
 Church of Scotland
 Roman Catholic
 All Christian

* 2011 census figures will not be available until later this year.

Unfortunately this is confirmed by what people told us during our Being Jewish in Scotland project: "There is strong hidden hatred and racism in Scotland, and I live in a place where being different or somehow other than local people is not acceptable." As a result people told us "I am afraid to admit to my Jewish background nowadays unless I know the company very well."

However, the picture may not be as bleak as these figures seem to show. First, the figures collected by the CST for the same period show a decrease from 20 incidents in 2010-11 to 10 in 2011-12. That may in part be because the Government’s figures relate to charges, not incidents, and just as the SDL rally was a single incident that gave rise to 57 charges, so, for example, antisemitic comments posted on Facebook under the heading “Welcome to Israel, only kidding you’re in Giffnock” resulted in 5 charges. It is also possible that the apparent increase relates to better reporting by victims, or because the police are more proactive, so that the perpetrators of antisemitic incidents can be brought to court even when there is no specific victim (such as for comments on social media), or when the victim is not Jewish.

On the other hand, the population figures for each faith community are still those from the 2001 census, since the relevant 2011 census data will not be published until later this year. If, however, as expected, the new figures reveal that the Muslim population has risen while Jewish numbers have fallen, the difference between the rates of religious hatred directed against the two religions is in fact even greater than the table shows.

Despite these concerns, however, we very much welcome the seriousness with which the Scottish Government is treating this state of affairs. We received a phone call from Roseanna Cunningham, the Community Safety Minister, as soon as the figures were published, and the First Minister also arranged an urgent meeting at which he reiterated his backing for a zero tolerance approach to hate crime in general. He pointed out that Scots Law is breaking new ground by making the expression of hatred on the internet a crime irrespective of whether the host is in Scotland, and that, as more police resources are directed to this, he would expect he figures to rise. He said he was proud that Scotland is becoming a better place to live, and drew an analogy with banning smoking and drinking in public places: “Enforcement of the law does not itself change society, but it sets the norms of acceptable behaviour”. He also pledged Scottish Government support for “education for demystification”.

So Scotland as a whole is by no means hostile to Jewish people, but there is a trend in both attitude and action that is undeniable. That needs to be acknowledged and challenged more openly by Government, the media, the churches, the trades unions, and others. We are still waiting for the Church of Scotland and the STUC to return our calls.


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