BATTLE AGAINST HATE CRIME: ‘Zero-tolerance for Islamaphobia’

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“I would say most people who I have met have been a victim of Islamaphobia at one point or another.”

Those are the words of Ali Amla, vice chairman of the Preston Faith Forum.

Ali Amla who also works to tackle extremism said of the figures, which show there is a rise, said: “There’s always a catch 22 when you look at figures because you see a rise in figures due to greater reporting and greater trust and actually when you look at the political climate you see a spike in Islamaphobic hate crime nationally and that is always concerning.”

Ali says the work he does means he is very aware of the problems of Islamphobia and he said often the victims are women.

He explains: “One woman told me how a group of people sprayed an aerosol in her eyes another woman told me about having her hijab ripped off.

“This is happening.” But he admits people still don’t report hate crime, and offers some reasons as to why: “My view is part of the problem is a lack of trust and confidence in the police, often some of these women have been new arrivals in England and are scared it may go against them, or they don’t report it for fear of reprisal.

“For some people who have been on the receiving end of Islamaphobia – and it breaks my heart to say it – it has become normal for them.

“I can recall when I used to have a longer beard, I lost count of how many times I was called Bin Laden or people wanted to square up to me because they thought I was a terrorist.

“This is in Lancashire.

“I still believe Lancashire and Preston is a very tolerant and respectful place.”

Ali said the boundaries between Islamaphobia and racism can become ‘blurred’ and he said he believes the way religious motivated hate crime is recorded should change.

He said there needs to be a way to separate Islamaphobia, anti-Semitism, etc and said “once we have an accurate picture we can put interventions in place.” Ali concluded: “I don’t think there is a way to entirely stop it.

“I think as we have zero tolerance for anti-Semitism there should be a zero tolerance to Islamaphobia.

“I don’t believe we need to set up third part reporting mechanism I don’t think they are counter productive.

“We need to build up community confidence to people will report it.”

A report published in September revealed 288 religiously aggravated crimes were recorded by Lancashire Constabulary between

January 2011 and June 2013. The main concentrations of the crimes recorded were in Blackburn and Preston, followed by Burnley, Blackpool, Nelson, Lancaster, Accrington and Chorley.

Just over four in ten of the recorded crimes (124 out of 288) were public order offences solely involving verbal abuse.