Young people who no longer use the name Mohammed in their job applications and don’t refer to Beeston in their address. Women being verbally abused and having their hijabs (headscarves) pulled off in the street.
These were the real examples of Islamophobia today in South Leeds that Hanif Malik, Chief Executive of the Hamara Centre in Beeston described to a meeting of 40 local residents last night (27 November 2013).
Also speaking at the meeting, Mark Burns-Williamson, the Police and Crime Commissioner for West Yorkshire stressed his commitment to bring people together to tackle all forms of hate crime. He has asked West Yorkshire Police to review how it records hate crimes and to include anti-Muslim hate crimes as a separate category, to better understand the level of the problem. He said:
“We must tackle this together. I want to harness the goodwill, which is my overwhelming experience visiting communities across West Yorkshire.
“I want to see partnership projects that break down the apathy to this problem that exists amongst Muslims and in other communities.”
Ahead of the meeting, which was organised as part of national Islamophobia Awareness Month, the audience were able to view an exhibition which vividly illustrated the problem of media bias against Muslims. In his presentation Azad Ali from ENGAGE pulled out the figure from a Lancaster University study that for every one positive story about Muslims, there are 21 stories about extremist Muslims in the British press. He went on to argue for religion to be given the same status as race in discrimination legislation.
Other speakers included Nabilah Karim from Leeds Grand Mosque who described the educational work they do to break down misconceptions of Islam, with over 40 schools visiting the mosque last year. Iman Qari Asim talked about how Islamophobia affects all of us, chipping away at the values of British society.
The Hamara Centre runs a project called Building Bridges. Their ambassadors are working to build capacity within the Muslim community to exercise their rights and responsibilities, as well as helping the wider community to understand the Muslim perspective.