Saturday 13thOctober marked the beginning of National Hate Crime Awareness Week where communities across the country have come together for seven days of solidarity to remember the victims of hate crime and improve public awareness and prevention.
At FMO, we believe that education is the best defence against hate. To challenge the toxic ideas that lead to the perpetration of hate crimes, we must demonstrate the value of our models of community and belonging.
This is something that Leicester has successfully promoted through initiatives and activism; from the Faiths Food and Forces interfaith week project, to the Open Ramadan Iftar, to the inspiring responses to hatred that were offered in the wake of the recent explosion on Hinckley Road.
We’ve seen a growing interest and engagement with efforts such as these. Last year, thirty families in Leicester from a variety religious backgrounds opened their doors to the British Armed Forces for Faiths Food and Forces interfaith week project. Over 100 people gathered to share food and stories together. Open Iftar 2018 similarly came to the iconic Leicester Market Place, inviting people of all background to celebrate their differences and commonalities through food, inspirational talks and engaging discussions. More and more people, of all faiths and none, are coming together to try to better understand one another and share pride in the diversity that Leicester has to offer.
FMO, in partnership with St Philip’s Centre, have also pioneered a ‘police pairing’ scheme where police officers are welcomed into the homes of various communities in Leicester in order to build on their knowledge of diversity. The scheme began last Wednesday with the Chief Constable Simon Cole visiting a Muslim family to discuss islamophobia a second meal has been arranged with a Jewish family to talk about antisemitism at the end of the week. Other faiths that will be hosting meals include, Christian. Hindu and Sikh families, amongst others. The project is supported by Open Society Foundations and is already a brilliant way to support communication whilst enhancing relations and understanding.
Solidarity is our surest protection. As with members of any faith, religion or ethnicity, we should not allow reports of hate crime to deter us from dialogue with other communities. Hate crime fuels polarisation by creating fear and distance which can augment into suspicion; a ripe condition for hatred to flourish.
We must not allow ourselves to become estranged from our neighbours, and we must continue to insist on working together, practicing our Islamic values of love, peace and forgiveness, to combat hate crime and its drivers.
Tackling hate crime is everyone’s responsibility and this year it’s been encouraging to see the police; our councils and community leaders launching new ways to reduce it and bring those responsible to justice. Going into 2019, let’s keep up the tempo and act together – as regional communities and as a national society – to celebrate our diversity and stop hatred in its tracks.
If you, or anyone you know, may have been a victim of a hate crime, then you should report it. If it’s an emergency and the crime is still taking place, call 999 and ask for the police. If it’s not an emergency, you can call 101, your local council, or “third party” independent hate crime advice and support services.
If you’re looking for more information about what constitutes a hate crime, or to get involved in anti-hate crime awareness, you can find guidance and resources via the National Hate Crime Awareness Week hub: https://bit.ly/2Ojqsqs