The time has finally come! Since 9/11 and 7/7 successive European and US Governments have rightly focussed on countering Al Qaeda and terrorist attacks in Europe and the US. However, the continued focus has missed out on the rising tide of anti-Muslim hate crime that has been taking place and which has not been properly recorded by civil society organisations. Some politicians have used Islam and Muslims as a political football knowing that it plays to the fear of some people in communities, whilst not making clear the fact that Muslim communities just want to get on with their lives, live within the law and value their local communities in this country. There is a very small group of Muslims who frankly spout pathetic and retrograde views based on their desire to be exclusive and they do not represent the overwhelming majority of Muslims in the UK.
So where are we? England is more than just a tolerant country. It is a land of opportunity and where people matter. Many people treat others like they want to be treated and place a value on the dignity of others. Yet, we have groups like Al-Muhajiroun and the English Defence League who are two peas in the same pod. Exclusivist and playing to common basic denominators, they spread messages of hate and division, even though the EDL couches their statements in being against Muslim extremism. Let us be clear; if they had their way they would expel all Muslims in line with the demented rants of that serial killer in Norway, a certain Mr Breivik!
As stated before, the lives and dignities of all people and communities matter in our country and we have to maintain and protect that space. In line with this, there are certain communities who have raised issues of attacks against them and there has been no definitive data collection on this. The Community Security Trust for example, does a sterling job in collecting anti-Semitic attacks and they work with the Association of Chief Police officers on this. They are trailblazers of this work.
In late September 2011, Faith Matters (www.faith-matters.org) will be launching software that can track anti-Muslim hate crime in real time and will be able to, for the first time, collect data and stats, as well as map incidents across the country. This is a huge step forward and one which we hope can look at this issue systematically and scientifically. Nobody should be attacked because of their race, faith, culture or background in this country. If they are, then we must all act together in challenging the perpetrators and collecting all of the data and information to ensure that they cannot enjoy the freedoms that with them, entail certain responsibilities.