Why is knife crime so prevalent in London?

Since the beginning of 2018 there have been 59 killings in London alone due to stabbings. In February 2018, the rate was higher than New York for the first time ever. Naturally, this has caused alarm bells to ring amongst communities, the media and the government.

The Mayor of London said the Met. Police would increase the use of stop-and-search powers whilst the police force announced an extra 300 officers a day to areas of London most affected by the violence.

However, government sources themselves have questioned this practice due to historical facts such as in 2011-12 when the Met Police conducted more than 500,000 stop-and-searches within a year, disproportionately targeting African-Caribbean people.

The majority of searches produced no evidence of crime and only damaged community relations instead.

With the recent surge of murders, the discussions have focused on the death rate due to stabbing and how to deal with these specifically without looking at the wider picture; with the government announcing a £1.35 million campaign aimed at 11 to 21 year-olds to help address violent crimes.

To fully understand the extent of the problem one must look further at crime levels not only in London, but the whole of the UK. According to the Office for National Statistics around 5.3 million violent crimes took place in the 12 months up to September 2017; up 14 percent from the year before. During this period there were 32,443 knife crimes and 6,694 gun crimes.

Hence the focus on the number of murders due to knife attacks seriously downplays the deep-rooted problems with crime that exist in the UK.

If the government, society and media genuinely seek to address soaring crime levels, they will need to be honest with themselves.

Why is this crime taking place?

It’s vital to understand the motivations and reasons behind why these crimes take place in order to propose the correct solutions. If this approach is not taken, no amount of funding, extra police and government policies will solve the problem.

The majority of the recent violence has been gang based. Current members of gangs and ex-gang members have explained over the years how they are lured into a culture of belonging, protection, status, money and power.

It’s a lifestyle choice made by gang members to feel a part of something they can’t obtain in the communities and society they live in.

When analysed through a deeper study the real pushers for this lifestyle choice are personal benefit, fun, domination over others, egos and satisfaction of pride; all of which are promoted by popular culture, media, online social media and the entertainment industry.

Wider societal issues connected to this are the fact that gangs and sections of the youth, especially from ethnic minority backgrounds, feel isolated from the very society they live in. This clearly highlights the deep rooted fallacies of equality and equal opportunities for all which is portrayed as the fabric of British society.

One may almost be led to believe the government has allowed this situation to continue to preserve the balance between the ethnic minorities, the working classes and the middle and upper classes. Or is it simply the case that the government is not equipped with the concepts, agenda or drive to solve these problems?

A senior Scotland Yard officer, DCS Michael Gallagher said “radical societal change” was required after the recent increase in murders saying:

“What we need is a societal change where young people, as perpetrators and victims, feel valued and protected… it is beyond the police. We cannot prosecute our way out of this…  We absolutely need to work with everyone, everybody. Parents, government, community groups.”

This call to address the more basic elements of human behaviour is not new. Tony Blair as Prime Minister, promised to be tough on the causes of crime as well as strong punishments for offenders. Before him, John Major urged British society to go “back to basics” in a speech in 1993 saying there should be more respect, tolerance and family values brought back in the communities. Ironically this speech came following a string of Conservative politicians caught up in scandals.

Hence, successive governments have attempted to address crime and social problems, but have they really addressed the root causes of these problems? If the root causes as mentioned earlier are not identified and addressed, the problems will continue to exist and in actual fact become worse, which is evident for all to see.

The real way to change crime levels and lack of respect towards other people in society is to change society’s concepts, which the capitalist way of life is unable to do, because it simply does not have the ability to change people’s’ concepts; as it has already told them to do whatever they want, be free, enjoy yourself etc.

As Muslims, we believe the Islamic thoughts and Islamic rules are the solution to these increasingly worrying crime levels in the UK and generally in the West.

Islam addresses these problems through state apparatus, by creating an environment of care towards society and accountability of every action undertaken. The following are summarised points of the Islamic approach in dealing with crime.

  1. Addressing the peoples thoughts and concepts about the way they should live life. Making the human understand that they will be accountable before the law. If one is not caught they will be accountable on the day of judgement in the hereafter.
  2. Teaching society to have relations with their family and community based on the rules of Islam. For example, not to cheat anyone in transactions, not to backbite or slander, not to hurt anyone emotionally or physically.
  3. Not to be individualistic and to care for ones neighbours and the community, to be a role model for the youth by respecting them and encouraging them to do good deeds.
  4. When people commit crimes Islam has a penal code which is based on principles of a harsh punishment suitable for the crime committed – justice for the one who was wronged, e.g. mugged or beaten. Finally, these punishments act as a deterrent to anyone else in society thinking of doing something similar.

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