Narrative about Muslims needs to be changed

26th Aug 2016

Home Secretary Amber Rudd visits the Community Alliance to Combat Hate

Any initiative against hate crime should be welcomed. Like other viruses, it has become a destructive scourge of society, replicating itself and infecting every element of our communities. It desperately needs to be eliminated but the Government’s latest Hate Crime Action Plan is derisory.

The plan, in which head teachers are being told to log every case of Islamophobic, anti-Semitic, homophobic, racist or other bullying in the classroom or in the playground, comes amid a huge upsurge in hate incidents following the Brexit referendum. Figures show more than 6,000 alleged hate crimes reported to the police in the first four weeks following the June 23 vote.

The Plan includes dishing out tougher sentences, as well as plans to provide £2.4million for security measures at mosques, churches and other places of worship. HM Inspectorate of Constabulary, the police watchdog, will also assess forces’ response to hate crime. But the action is rather minimal and unlikely to even dent the size of the problem.

Main offences reported in the Plan are ‘violence against the person’, which includes harassment and common assault, as well as verbal abuse, spitting and barging. Despite the upsurge in xenophobia against most immigrants, hate crimes have been disproportionately aimed at Muslims. According to the Metropolitan Police, Islamophobic hate crimes rose by 43 per cent in the last 12 months.

The new Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, called on communities across Britain to “come together and stand united against those who use hate to divide us.” But action needs to be much, much more comprehensive. Such crimes are becoming endemic and there can be no pretence about the serious nature of such offences, which, if left to grow unfettered, are dividing not only Britain but Europe, with dire consequences.

It is not just a question of the prosecuting perpetrators of hate crime, although work is required in this area given even fewer seem to be being charged. But it is as much, if not more, to do with the attitudes governing society. This has been proven by the failure of the 1976 Race Relations Act to address discrimination embedded within British society. It hardly helps when Muslims have become the easy target of prejudices.

When politicians launch initiatives and enact laws they need to also look at their own behaviour. If hate crimes have become such a serious concern, has the Government itself not helped to engender such an atmosphere against Islam and Muslims by coining religious phrases, dealing with the 3 million-strong community through the prism of terrorism, and monitoring them from birth to grave for signs of supposed extremism?

One of the British values high on the list must be mutual respect and treating everyone as equal. What is not needed is the prejudicial face of the media supported by the policies of the Government and careless language of politicians that produce fertile ground for hate crime.

It is hoped under the new Prime Minister, this may change. As Theresa May said after she became the Prime Minister, she wants a one Nation country. Let her begin by changing her Government’s attitude towards the Muslim community.

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