Time to stand up to the mainstreaming of hate speech

Hate crime on the rise again

GMT 21:15 Wednesday ,05 April 2017

 Migrant Voice - Hate crime on the rise again

MV

This week has seen high-profile and horrific hate crimes hit our streets. 

Last Friday a 17-year old Kurdish Iranian asylum seeker was beaten by around 20 thugs in Croydon, until he was "unrecognisable" to his friends. 

Reker Ahmed remained in hospital at the time of writing (5 April) in a serious condition as police continued to hunt a dozen or more suspects. Multiple people - including teenagers - have been charged.

And two days earlier in Stroud a 15-year old Polish boy out walking with his girlfriend was attacked by a gang armed with crowbars and baseball bats. A shopkeeper, Amo Singh, who intervened to help, was also badly injured. The incident appears to have been motivated by xenophobia.

Meanwhile in Luton, another teenager has been charged with three hate offences in one week. 

There is a small but significant number of violent hate-mongers on our streets; and disturbingly, some of the perpretrators appear to be young people, who are often perceived as more tolerant.

But they are also impressionable, and we have to ask where we are getting their impressions. 

Every day we are bombarded with stories telling us that asylum seekers are bogus, illegitimate and out to freeload off British people - when in fact these are vulnerable people fleeing some of the world's most desperate circumstances. 

And every day politicians blame social problems from crime to unemployment on immigrants, rather than proposing real solutions. 

Some of the newspapers rightly reporting on the Reker Ahmed attack as a national scandal have been the same ones that dehumanise, attack and misrepresent refugees and migrants consistently - while giving space to opinion writers who dismiss refugees as "cockroaches" and "scroungers." 

That alone does not explain why some turn violent. But it does set a context to these incidents, and demonstrate how irresponsible the people behind sensationalist, misleading headlines about migrants are. 

These latest attacks, which could have been fatal, are a grim wake up call. There is no such thing as "just words"; rhetoric has a direct impact on real life. 

But not everything is bleak. Over £10,000 has already been fundraised for Reker Ahmed, in a crowdfunder set up by a person with no link to the situation who wanted to do her bit. Well-wishes for those affected have poured in. In communities across Britain, there are initiatives taking place to bring communities together and make them more able to report, respond to and prevent hate crime. Our own #StandTogether campaign in December saw community organisers, town halls, trade unions and interfaith groups unite to start conversations about how we tackle hate crime and build solidarity. 

Practical suggestion include cohesion events like the planned Great Get Together that give people who live in the same area a chance to talk to each other and break down barriers, and our own work in using migrant voices in the mainstream media to challenge misreporting and stereotypes. But above all, politicians and headline writers have a responsibility to stop the mainstreaming of hate. 

 
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