Brexit. The word that has completely overwhelmed every British person at the moment and has probably confused many.
Amidst the looming shadow of Brexit which seems to never end and dominate all conversations in Parliament, a Labour MP called out an internal issue of Islamophobia and hate crime within the Conservative Party and in the country.
‘If I decide to wear a turban, or you decide to wear a cross, or he decides to wear a kippah or a skull cap, or she decides to wear a hijab or a burka, does that mean it’s open season for right honourable members of this house to make derogatory and divisive remarks about our parents?’
These words were spoken during a PMQs, by Slough Labour MP, Mr Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi. He directly attacked the PM Boris Johnson on his remarks about women wearing the burqa, to which Boris Johnson responded that he had ‘Muslim ancestors’ and he is related to Sikhs. This still does not make it acceptable for this sort of hate speech to be propagated and does not legitimise it either. In August 2018, Boris Johnson claimed women wearing the burqa looked like ‘bank robbers’ and ‘letterboxes’, in The Telegraph. These racist and derogatory remarks legitimise the offenders of hate crime, as they are remarks by a person of high authority.
This direct confrontation of hate speech in the Houses of Parliament was applauded by many members of the Labour Party and proved to be an important conversation. The speech went viral and gained much attention across social media, suggesting that this matter is important to the British people.
Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi also questioned the PM on the progression of an inquiry into Islamophobia in the Conservative Party.
It is important to understand that there are other serious matters affecting our country at the moment other than Brexit. During this prolonged period of great uncertainty in our politics, the matter of ‘Brexit’ is understandably dominating all the headlines and conversations within the PMQs. ‘Trade deals’, ‘The European Economic Area’ and the ‘impact on businesses after Brexit’ are external issues that have overshadowed the social ones which continue to plague this country.
According to a 2017/2018 report by the Home Office, there has been an increase of 17 per cent in hate crime from the previous year. But why is this? Predictably, the Home Office said there was a spike in hate crime after the EU referendum. The police reported 94,098 offences in the UK. However, there are many more cases that remain unreported to the police.
Some cases of hate crime from this year alone:
At the end of July, there was an attack on a lesbian couple in Camden resulting in the victims sustaining severe facial injuries. The hate crime was committed by four teenage boys on a night bus. Then in August, two Muslim women wearing hijabs were brutally attacked on the London Underground, leaving one of the victims with suspected broken ribs and the other with a black eye.
There are different strands of hate crime, which can be racial, homophobic, religious, as well as sexual, disability and transgender. But the type of hate crimes that are most prevalent involve race, (currently at 71,251) and sexual orientation (at 11,638).
The Government have introduced many schemes to deal with hate crime, for example; ‘Stand Up! Streetwise’, which is an initiative that aims to tackle Islamophobia and anti-Semitism. According to the Home Office report, this scheme has been delivered to ‘over 80 schools’ and has reached ‘over 8,000 young people’. But there are many more schools and young people around the country that this needs to reach. The other issue is that there are other forms of hate crime which also require attention, such as those that concern sexual orientation, which require a different strategy and which have still not been addressed effectively.
The solution to creating a better society free of hate crime is arguably the most obvious one. We need to ‘take back control’ of our streets and gain a better understanding of how our community can be cohesive, and how we can improve dialogue between Britain’s different cultures and minorities which are being targeted. If we want to see positive, long-term results, then it is time we start using our community and youth centres as means for educating people about social diversity.
We must strive to foster a better sense of community spirit and compassionate cohesion between all the different groups of people living in the UK. Amidst all the uncertainty we face, there is always hope for us all in the future if we work towards change and voice our concerns. One person already spoke up:
‘So, rather than hide behind sham and whitewash investigations, when will the Prime Minister finally apologise for his derogatory and racist remarks which have led to a spike in hate crime?’
It’s time we spoke out too.