Since Trump’s 2016 election victory we have witnessed a drastic increase in the number of hate crimes committed on American soil. According to one study undertaken in nine areas across the US, there is an overall increase of 23.3% in hate crimes from the previous year. This same phenomenon can also be observed in the UK post-Brexit Referendum, and more specifically and significantly after the London Bridge attacks in 2017, which have triggered a wave of hate crimes, especially targeting Muslims. Recorded hate crimes have risen from 38 a day pre-London Bridge attack to 54; it is important to bear in mind that these figures are likely even higher as many hate crime go unrecorded.
The majority of hate crimes are non-violent and largely limited to verbal harassments. However, for the purpose of this blog I shall solely focus on violent hate crimes; more importantly and precisely the use of face melters, a.k.a acid as a means of hate crime. As with hate crimes in general, the use of noxious chemicals has seen an increase the past years (e.g. From 261 in 2015 to 454 in 2016, UK).
Our common association of acid attacks is from 3rd world countries in connection to honour killings primarily targeting women and young girls. To many it is unimaginable that this might become a norm in the West as much as it is in developing countries. Furthermore, in the UK men are found to be the primary target of acid attacks (2/3 are men), whereas women represent the stereotypical victim in developing countries.
In general, acid attacks have been associated with gangs and robberies, and many moped/scooter drivers have been the victims of those attacks. However, even these scooter robberies can be interpreted as hate crimes to some extent. Stealing a moped is one thing, but destroying your victim by using acid is another. If you want to steal a moped you can, by using for example a hammer or your fist. But using a noxious chemical is a life sentence for the victim.
As mentioned previously there seems to be a neoteric shift in the targeting strategy. It is believed that acid attacks are now also aiming at Muslims. One of the most marking attacks was the Beckton attack on the 21st of June 2017, which marked a life changing moment in Resham Khan and Jameel Mukhtar's lives. Both were victims of an acid attack, while on their way to Ms. Khan’s 21st Birthday. A man, later identified as John Tomlin, threw what was first believed to be water through Khan and Mukhtar’s car window at a stop light in Beckton (London).
Additionally, Muslim residents of Bradford (UK) have been receiving menacing mail per post threatening them with noxious chemical attacks.
To this stage, acid attacks are becoming a new mechanism of Islamophobia. This phenomenon is too recent to deduce a credible theory. Nevertheless, hate crimes (not only directed at Muslims) and particularly the use of noxious chemicals are increasing at an incredible pace, which is leaving a lot of security and governmental authorities speechless.