Virulent effect of hate crimes

26th Jan 2018
Virulent effect of hate crimes

(Photo: Fibonacci Blue/Creative Commons)

Hate crimes are like a virus. The impact is not just confined to the individuals directly targeted. They are symbolic acts intended to send a message of hostility and intolerance to anyone who shares the identity or characteristic of the victim targeted. Rather perniciously such attacks send a signal to entire communities that they are not welcomed or tolerated.

The effects, as a study by the Sussex Hate Crime Project has found, are even likely to have far-reaching emotional and behavioural consequences. Hate crimes leave others in their communities feeling angry that they are all under attack and vulnerable as they fear that they too will be targeted. Entire groups of people feel stigmatised and rejected, resulting in community tensions and social isolation. They are destructive to social cohesion.

For over a decade and more, Muslims have been facing growing number of hate attacks. Such has been the rise that the word Islamophobia was coined to ensure a recognition of the extent of the hatred. A lot has been written about the history of discrimination and prejudice directed against Muslims. It takes many different forms from verbal and online abuse to vandalism on properties and physical assault on a person, even with a weapon.

The latest five-year study illustrates both the highly damaging effects hate crimes can have on victims – which is often ignored or overlooked – as well as the indirect impact on wider communities. Although tackling hate crime is supposed to be high on the Government’s agenda, the findings underline how much more needs to be done to wipe out this scourge from society. Failure to take this hate seriously has already led to a rise in right-wing extremism across many countries in the world.

As Professor of Social Psychology, Rupert Brown, warns, hate crime has a greater impact on communities than other types of crime. Politicians need to take leadership as like much of the media, many wittingly or unwittingly have fanned the flames of Islamophobia by their choice of words, by the way, anti-terrorism laws and policy are targetted against Muslims and by regularly projecting negative images of the Muslim community.

Further ominous findings also included the fact that Muslims were unlikely to report hate offences to the police as they were likely to perceive the police and the CPS as “ineffective” at dealing with such crimes. Such a perspective is likely to be strengthened after the latest anti-Muslim crime to be treated in a way many have described as epitomising “double standards” this month. A donor to Britain First, who told a police officer he was going to “kill a Muslim” for Britain, did a Nazi salute, abused a Somali woman and shouted “white power” before driving at a Muslim, received only 32 weeks for “dangerous driving” with no terror charge.

More widespread, according to the study, was that Muslims were likely to be blamed for hate crimes despite more often being the victims. “Since indirect hate crime victimisation is linked to lower levels of confidence in the police and the CPS, much more needs to be done by these institutions to increase confidence,” the study said.

It argued that the findings provide additional justification for treating hate crimes as a distinct type of offending that requires a specific legislative response. “The courts and Parliament can use these results to support the use and extension of hate crime legislation that treats such crimes more seriously than other offences.However, the findings should also lend weight to measures that specifically aim to address community harms during the criminal justice process.”

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Over 120 people attended a landmark conference on the media reporting of Islam and Muslims. It was held jointly by The Muslim News and Society of Editors in London on September 15.

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