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Spike in post-Brexit hate crimes linked to divisive rhetoric

29th Jul 2016

Kashmir Meat Poultry, a halal butchers shop in Walsall, West Midlands, had a Molotov cocktail thrown inside
(Photo: Facebook)

Ala Abbas

There has been a spike in the reporting of racists and xenophobic incidents since the EU Referendum on June 23. By the Friday after the referendum, True Vision, the police-run site to combat hate crime, had recorded a fivefold increase in reports from the public. There were 331 incidents in the week following the Referendum, compared to the weekly average of 63.

Some incidents have taken on a more violent and pre-mediated turn. In the week following the Referendum vote, a halal butchers in Walsall, West Midlands, had a Molotov cocktail thrown inside, which hit a worker and caused significant fire damage, although no one was seriously hurt. Xenophobic graffiti was daubed on the Polish Social and Cultural Association in West London and laminated cards reading: “No more Polish vermin” were posted through letterboxes in Huntingdon.

In Manchester, more than 20 elderly people had to be evacuated from the Hulme-based African Caribbean Care Group after a threatening phone call, and in Aston, dozens of Islamophobic leaflets were distributed through letterboxes.

An Eid event set to take place in Southampton this July, with thousands expected to attend, had to be cancelled by organisers amidst security fears, as the far-right organisation South Coast Resistance group were planning to hold a demonstration on the same day.

A Muslim pupil was asked to ‘go home’ on the Referendum day. Asghar Khan Tia, owner of Thanet Quality Foods in Northdown Road, Kent, said when his niece went into Upton Junior School, Broadstairs, pupils were telling her to leave the country and go home.

He said: “My niece is in Year 6 and she went into school the day the result was announced and other children were saying to her: ‘when are you going home’ and ‘you have to leave now’.

“My father came here in the 1950s, my niece is the third generation of our family living in Britain. I am worried for the children because these things can’t be allowed to happen.

“How are these small children getting this message and why are they saying it? It was a worrying thing.”

Mosques in Finsbury Park, Tottenham and Leyton received packages with powder in the envelopes on July 7. Peer Lord Nazir Ahmed also received a similar package at the House of Lords. It was found that the powder in all the packages was not noxious.

Two of the mosques had racist words, “P*** filth”, written outside the package. The Leyton mosque Noor Ul Islam found the powder in a package at 11.45 with the racist words, and they called the police. The mosque had to hold the midday prayers at the back of the mosque. By 4pm the counter terrorism police told them the powder was harmless. Chairman of the Mosque, Yusuf Hansa, told The Muslim News: “I was very concerned about it at the beginning as we thought it may be anthrax powder. We had to tell the worshippers not to panic. They didn’t understand why the police were there. I believe this was because of Brexit.”

Other mosques that received the packages were Muslim Welfare House in Seven Sisters Road, Finsbury Park and Masjid Ayesha, in Clyde Road, Tottenham.

This spike in the number of hate crimes has led to condemnation from the Prime Minister and a drive by the Mayor of London to be more vigilant. Arun Arora, a senior Church of England official, warned that the rise in hate crimes since the EU referendum could lead to fascism and that the UK faced a choice about what kind of country it wanted to be.

Media influence

In her study of all the UK print media, Professor Ruth Wodak, a specialist in linguistics and national identity, found that between 1996 and 2006, the print media merged migrants, illegal immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers into one and demonized them as “others”.

A study by the Reuters Institute found that in the first two months of EU referendum campaigning, three newspapers focused mainly on migration stories, and of all the Referendum stories in the print media, migration was the third most cited argument.

Since the start of the year there have been more than 30 splashes about migrants in the Mail and the Express and 15 in the Sun, according to research by Liz Gerard, a former Times night editor.

On June 21, the Sun ran a story on Turkey claiming that £675million was being spent on getting Turkey into the EU. Writing in favour of leaving the EU, the article goes on to say “Imagine how it might ease the burden on those areas already bearing the brunt of the uncontrolled influx of migrants . . . where pay is stagnant and public services buckling.

The Remain campaign is desperate to discredit the idea of almost 80 million Turkish citizens getting access to the EU because they know immigration could defeat them on Thursday.” The claim was not corrected despite the entire population of Turkey standing at 75 million.

On June 12, the Sunday Times ran a front-page story on leaked plans to open doors to 1m Turkish citizens, claiming that 1m Turkish Citizens could be granted visa free travel to the UK. The article goes on to talk about an alleged threat by the President of Turkey to “open the floodgates” to migrants currently held in camps in Turkey, if Turkey was refused a deal on “Visa liberalization”.

The Daily Telegraph on its front page screamed: “Visa-free Turkey ‘terror threat’” alleging that “Foreign terrorists and organised criminals are expected to seek Turkish passports to reach..Europe as soon as the visa waiver programme comes into force….Turkey’s 75 million citizens will have the right to enter the Schengen zone…” Note that the UK is not part of Schengen zone.

The Leave Campaign

When Sir John Major addressed the Oxford Union last May, he spoke of the risk of the Leave campaign leaders “morphing into UKIP” because of their emphasis on the immigration argument. He called immigration the Leave Campaign’s “trump card” and warned, “This is dangerous territory that, if handled carelessly, can open up long-term divisions in our society.”

Speaking in the Guardian earlier in June, former Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, said: “The Referendum was always about more than Europe; it was always about what kind of Britain we are and what we aspire to be. But some have attempted to hijack a decision on the future of Britain in Europe and turn it into a vote on immigration, and then on immigrants and those who support immigrants.”

Then Employment Minister and now promoted by Prime Minister, Theresa May, to Secretary of State for International Development, Priti Patel, warned that 100,000 Turkish people will come to Britain every year if Turkey is allowed to join the European Union which will pose “security threat”.

In contrast to the anti-immigration rhetoric, Labour Leader, Jeremy Corbyn of the Remain campaign said the right approach was to tackle exploitation by unscrupulous employers, and boost public spending in areas where there is large-scale immigration, rather than throwing up barriers to free movement.

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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.

The Muslim News Awards for Excellence 2015 was held on March in London to acknowledge British Muslim and non-Muslim contributions to the society.

The Muslim News Awards for Excellence 2015 was held on March in London to acknowledge British Muslim and non-Muslim contributions to the society.

The Muslim News Awards for Excellence event is to acknowledge British Muslim and non-Muslim contributions to society. Over 850 people from diverse background, Muslim and non-Muslim, attended the gala dinner.

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