Monthly Archives: May 2012

The Daily Telegraph yesterday carried an article on a Ministry of Justice report on Whitemoor Prison, written by researchers at the Cambridge Institute of Criminology. The article was headlined ‘Prisoners under pressure to convert to Muslim ‘gang’’. The report on which the article is based is titled, ‘An exploration of staff-prisoner relationships at HMP Whitemoor: 12 years on’. The research was published in November last year, though it appears to have only been made available recently.

From the Daily Telegraph:

“Inmates at HMP Whitemoor told researchers commissioned by the Ministry of Justice that they changed their faith for protection or because they were bullied into it.

“Prison guards said they had a policy of “appeasement” towards the powerful and growing Islamic population, particularly convicted terrorists who were feared to be recruiting future extremists.

“ “There were some intimidating ‘heavy players’ among the Muslim population, who appeared to be orchestrating prison power dynamics rather than propagating or following the faith. Many physically powerful prisoners ‘re-established their outside identities’ as leaders in the prison and used their (newly acquired) faith status as a tool for establishing influence.

“ “Non-Muslim prisoners described wearing underpants in the showers on some spurs (out of ‘respect’ and fear) and some Muslim prisoners described a form of intimidation exerted (‘they probably do feel shamed’) relating to cooking (especially frying bacon) in the kitchens.”

“Following concerns over Islamic radicalisation in a 2008 report by inspectors, researchers visited Whitemoor between 2009 and 2010 to interview staff and inmates.”

“They found that more than a third (35 to 39 per cent) of prisoners are now Muslims, compared with 11 per cent across all jails.

“Many of those they spoke to had converted while inside but they had mixed motivations for doing so, and not all had done so voluntarily.

“Reasons included “seeking care and protection”, “gang membership” and “coercion” as well as “rebellion” since Islam was seen as the “underdog”.

“…it was also claimed that non-Muslims felt “envy” at the preferential treatment, including better food, given to Muslims.

“The report concluded: “The new population mix, including younger, more black and minority ethnic and mixed race, and high numbers of Muslim prisoners, was disrupting established hierarchies in the prison. Social relations among prisoners had become complex and less visible. Too much power flowed among some groups of prisoners, with some real risks of serious violence. There were high levels of fear in the prison. In particular, there were tensions and fears relating to ‘extremism’ and ‘radicalisation’.

““More prominent, in practice, were pressures (and temptations) felt by some prisoners to convert to Islam. Conditions in the prison made participation in Islamic practices the most ‘available’ option for those looking for belonging, meaning, ‘brotherhood’, trust and friendship.””

For many reasons, the article simply appears to be an excuse to have a dig at Muslims. First of all, it appears to infer that the research was carried out because of “concerns over Islamic radicalisation in a 2008 report by inspectors”. However, as to the aims and objectives of the research, the report actually states that,

“A previous study carried out at HMP Whitemoor in 1998/9, published in 2001… found very positive relationships at the establishment; however, by 2008 a report by Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Prisons (HMCIP 2008) described apparently ‘distant relationships’ between staff and prisoners. This apparent decline is a clear matter of concern and interest.” Given this, the report states its objectives were to explore staff-prisoner relationships at Whitemoor, as well as describe the prison experience at Whitemoor. The research was not, therefore, as we may be led to believe, carried out because of specific concerns over Islamic radicalisation. The report does nonetheless state that:

“Whilst the research did not set out explicitly to explore relationships between Muslim prisoners and others, the role of faith and in-prison conversions to Islam, or the risks of radicalisation, these became important themes in the research because of their prominence in staff and prisoner experience at Whitemoor.”

So the report found that issues relating to the Muslim prison population featured prominently, however such concerns were not what prompted the research.

Moreover, the article focuses on the pressure on non-Muslims to convert to Muslim ‘gangs’. However the report itself is far broader in its reach and presents a far from straight forward picture. For example, the report states that “A new population mix, including younger, more Black and minority ethnic and mixed race, and high numbers of Muslim prisoners, was disrupting established hierarchies. Social relations among prisoners had become complex and less visible.”

It also states that “Faith ‘identities’ were being adopted and used in many ways at Whitemoor, including for protection. The main motivations for turning to faith were: sense-making, searching for meaning, identity, and structure; dealing with the pains of long-term imprisonment; seeking ‘brotherhood’/family; or ‘anchored relations’; seeking care and protection; gang membership; rebellion; and coercion.”

It adds that, “Conditions in the prison made participation in Islamic practices the most ‘available’ option for those looking for belonging, meaning, ‘brotherhood’, trust and friendship.”

Although pressure and coercion may be playing a part in the adoption of an Islamic identity in Whitemoor, factors relating to identity and meaning also appear to play a significant part. The report also points out in its concluding discussion that “Prisons are highly unsettling environments in which individuals are more likely than elsewhere to explore new beliefs and associations.” The Telegraph’s focus therefore, on one aspect of the prison/faith experience- that of coercion and of aggression, misses out a much broader picture of the prison/faith/identity experience; this indicates an agenda to portray Muslims as an aggressive and coercive group.

Moreover, the report carries other significant findings, which the Daily Telegraph entirely overlooks. This includes issues to do with the Muslim prisoner experience and feelings of alienation and being targeted. Perhaps even more significantly, the report points to several research findings which indicate that staff are ill-trained in their understanding of Islam, perceiving it “as a radical religion”, and that they are poorly-trained in the way that they deal with Muslim prisoners. The report points out that this may even perpetuate prisoner radicalisation, as by ‘over-estimating extremism’, the staff ‘pushed prisoners together’, reinforced their views and gave them more power. Does the Daily Telegraph not perceive these findings to be of concern?

Such findings of the impact of staff behaviour on the radicalisation of Muslim prisoners are supported by previous research. For example, a 2010 report into Muslim prisoner experiences found that the ‘blanket’ approach towards Muslim prisoners by prison staff, and the tendency to see Muslim prisoners through the lens of terrorism and extremism cements feelings of alienation and disaffection and increases the risk of producing men who are “more likely to offend, or even embrace extremism’. However, it is important to point out that whilst the risk of radicalisation in prison has been explored, research has been inconclusive in finding a clear link between radicalisation and serving time in prison, with the February 2012 Home Affairs Select Committee report into the ‘Roots of Violent Radicalisation’ stating that “there is seldom concrete evidence to confirm that this is where they were radicalised.”

This is not the first time that Whitemoor Prison has come to the attention of the media- in 2008, the Sunday Express carries a sensationalist headline stating that ‘Muslim fanatics hijack British Prison’. The Daily Telegraph’s reporting appears to be a similar attempt and excuse to portray Muslims in a negative and threatening light, and gives a narrow picture of the findings of the Ministry of Justice report.

The full Ministry of Justice report is available to download here.

There has been widespread coverage in the Guardian, the Independent, the Daily Mail and on BBC News, on the Government’s U-turn on proposals to extend the mandate of secret trials, known as ‘closed material procedures’. The proposals are detailed in a Justice and Security bill, and have received widespread criticism from parliamentarians, civil liberty groups and the public.

From the Guardian:

“Liberal Democrats are claiming credit for ensuring that inquests will not be subjected to so-called “closed material procedures”, which would mean that any information held by the security and intelligence agencies could be heard only in secret.

“However, the main purpose of the bill will remain – evidence and claims made by MI5, MI6 and GCHQ would be presented to the court but would not be disclosed to individuals seeking damages or making complaints. As a result, they would not be challenge [sic] the agencies.

“Instead, their interests will be presented by vetted “special advocates”.

“Judges will decide whether to agree to a minister’s request that evidence should be heard only in secret on grounds of national security.

“The bill will allow ministers to claim secrecy is needed on national security grounds for swaths of information, not only material in the hands of the security and intelligence agencies, according to reports of its contents circulating on Monday.

“Shami Chakrabarti, the director of the human rights group Liberty, said on Monday: “So audacious were the original proposals, it’s no surprise to see slight concessions designed to sweeten the bitter and unnecessary pill.”

“Cori Crider, the legal director of the charity Reprieve, said: “This bill will leave [justice secretary] Ken Clarke’s reputation as a civil libertarian in tatters.

“”Let’s all remember that this bill is coming at the very time when the UK is to be hauled into court over the rendition-to-torture of Gaddafi opponents Sami al-Saadi, Abdelhakim Belhadj and their young families. If the law goes through as drafted, the majority of evidence in those cases will never see the light of day. Surely Ken Clarke – and all of us – owe an open explanation to Khadija al-Saadi, rendered age 12.””

Amongst some of the major criticisms that have been leveled against the proposals are that those pursuing a case would not be made aware of the evidence held against them, that the public and press would be excluded from attending such trials, and that the proposals are an attempt to prevent further embarrassment to the Government caused by cases such as that of Binyam Mohamed. The Government has defended the measures stating that the proposals seek to protect intelligence-sharing agreements with Britain’s allies as well as enhance national security.

The Guardian adds that, “Critics of the bill have pointed out that including inquests within the new regulations would have led to relatives of servicemen and women who died in action participating in hearings where sensitive material was clearly being excluded from public sessions.

Writing in the Daily Mail, which has published numerous articles opposing the proposals, Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke lays out some of the changes to the bill and states that his original proposals were “too broad”.

He writes:

“The reaction to the consultation has persuaded me that some of the suggestions we made for solving the undoubted problems were too broad.

“We are now not including proposals for inquests to hear intelligence material in secret.

“We have decided that a judge, not a minister, will make the final decision on whether proceedings should go into closed session. And only the parts of cases involving spies and national security will be heard in this way.

“Criminal cases were never and will never be affected by the changes.

“We are also using this opportunity to overhaul the way in which the intelligence and security services are themselves watched.

“Parliament, not the Prime Minister, will have the final say on the membership of the Intelligence and Security Committee.

“No evidence that can currently be heard in open court will be put into closed proceedings.

“For any claimant, or any reporter, the overall effect will be access to at least the same amount of information as under the previous rules, with the additional benefit that there will be an independent judgment on serious allegations.

“The Daily Mail has done a service to the public interest. I hope that during the passage of the Bill, we will win the support of its readers for an improved system that will protect the secrets of our intelligence services from public scrutiny but make sure that they remain accountable to the law, to Parliament and to the public.”

As civil liberties campaigners point out, the fact that some of the core measures in the proposal remain- measures which significantly encroach on what are seen as basic civil liberties and legal tradition is testimony to how far the coalition parties have departed from some of their manifesto promises of 2010.

The Liberal Democrats in particular, stated in their election manifesto that they would “Restore and protect hard-won British civil liberties”, which they aimed to do through a ‘freedom bill’.

Moreover, the Conservative Party in 2010 similarly promised to ‘restore our civil liberties’.

As with the replacement of control orders with ‘Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures’ (TPims) last year, electoral promises to roll back the security-bias approach to civil liberties that expanded under Labour and re establish an even balance between liberty and security, is increasingly looking hollow.

Sky News reports on the jailing of a woman who subjected tube passengers to a hate-filled rant on a Central Line tube last January.

The woman, who racially abused fellow passengers has been jailed for 21 weeks for racially aggravated assault.

From Sky News:

“A woman whose racist abuse of fellow passengers on a packed Tube train became an internet hit has been jailed for 21 weeks.

“Jacqueline Woodhouse, 42, from Romford in Essex was filmed ranting at passengers on a Central Line train in January.

“The video, filmed by passenger Galbant Juttla, was uploaded onto YouTube and has now been viewed 200,000 times.

“Mr Juttla was returning from a funeral when the incident happened.

“Woodhouse is seen in the seven-minute video carrying out an expletive-laden rant at passengers.

“She repeatedly asks them: “Where are you from? Where are you from?”

“One passenger is heard to say: “I’m British.”

“She pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to a charge of racially aggravated assault.

“Woodhouse arrived at Westminster Magistrates Court with two friends, who shielded her from photographers with an umbrella.”

The Lancashire Evening Post has reported on a racist attack which took place last week on a Muslim-run community centre in Preston.

From the LEP:

“Vandals struck at a Preston community centre and daubed the walls with racist graffiti.

“The Hamaara Centre, at the rear of Castleton Road, Deepdale, Preston, was broken into and windows and furniture were smashed by the offenders.

“The centre, which is run by Preston Muslim Forum, is used for English classes, youth clubs and mother and toddler groups.

“The vandals…caused extensive damage including the smashing of windows and damaging the table tennis table, snooker table, storage cupboard and furniture and toys used by the mother and toddler group.

“Paint was also sprayed on the walls and racist graffiti including the Nazi Swastika symbols was scrawled all over the walls.

“Vali Patel, from Preston Muslim Forum who runs the Hamaara Centre, said: “It breaks your heart to see this type of mindless vandalism.

““The only losers in this case are children, young people and women who use this centre for various positive activities.”

“Coun Anis Faruki, councillor for the St George’s ward who lives in Deepdale, said: “The racist graffiti is the most worrying part of the whole thing as far as I am concerned as it demonstrates not just anti-social behaviour, but a lack of community cohesion as well.”

“PC Susan Proffitt from Preston Police, said: “This is a nasty crime in which a voluntary community centre has been deliberately targeted.

““The offenders have caused mindless destruction, throwing paint over the walls and damaging property that was donated by the local community.””

Only last week, it was reported that a mosque in Wakefield was vandalised with offensive graffiti.

Our revamped website provides a facility for logging anti-Muslim hate crimes. You can find out more here.

BBC News today carries a report claiming that the Government may take steps to curb ‘religious slaughter’ in the UK. Current provisions allow for the practice of religious slaughter consistent with the religious requirements and dietary habits of Muslims and Jews.

The issue of ‘stunning’ animals before slaughter was recently raised by Professor Bill Reilly, ex-president of the British Veterinary Association, who claimed animals slaughtered according to the halal method far exceeded the proportion of Muslims in the UK.

From the BBC:

“The government is facing renewed calls to curb the slaughtering of animals that have not first been rendered unconscious – a debate that pits religious sensitivities against the convictions of animal welfare campaigners.

“Senior Conservative backbencher Greg Knight has told MPs that the practice of slaughtering cattle, lambs and chickens in this way is “rife”.

“The law demands that animals be stunned before they are killed – by electrocution, gassing, or shooting retractable rods into their brains – but there are exemptions for animals to be killed according to Jewish and Muslim traditions, without stunning them first.

“In the Commons on Thursday, Mr Knight described these exemptions as “unacceptable”.
“The previous week, Conservative MP for Ealing Central and Acton Angie Bray claimed that “more than 25% of meat sold in our shops comes from animals that have not been stunned before slaughter”.

“And last month, Tory MP for Shipley Philip Davies launched a bid to change the law to ensure that halal and kosher meat on sale in shops and eateries was labelled as such.

“Kosher meat is not processed in the UK from animals stunned prior to slaughter.

“But EU research from 2006 indicated that 75% of cattle, 93% of sheep and 100% of chickens slaughtered in the UK for halal meat were stunned prior to their deaths. Figures produced by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) in 2011 give a similar picture: 84%, 81% and 88%, respectively.

“Meanwhile, Denmark and New Zealand have both legislated to ensure that all animals killed for halal meat are stunned first.

“So labelling meat as halal will not fully achieve Mr Davies’ objective, since consumers will be unaware whether the animal had been stunned or not.

“MPs were quick to point out flaws in Mr Davies’s bill, before voting to consign it to the legislative scrap heap by a majority of just three.

The article states that Sir Gerald Kaufman, a former Labour MP has accused Davies of having “picked on two small minorities”.

It is important to point out here that the issue of ritual slaughter in the UK and Europe is often referred to in the context of the Muslim community as the problem, or as an issue of the ‘Islamisation’ of the west. The mass media in particular, have a tendency to overlook ritual slaughter in the Jewish community. Take for example this report in the Daily Mail, where a halal abattoir was visited as an investigation into ritual slaughter, but the Daily Mail took no initiative to visit a Jewish abattoir, to which concerns about ritual slaughter extend.

The BBC article continues:

“While committing itself to the principle of providing accurate information to consumers, the government has warned that there are “real practical difficulties in establishing traceability to identity method of slaughter to the point of consumption”.

“Finding out exactly how much halal and kosher meat is being sold in the UK is also problematic, since accurate data on the subject is not gathered.

“Ms Bray’s 25% figure for halal meat appears to be based on a recent article by former president of the British Veterinary Association, Bill Reilly – but he emphasises that some of these animals would have been stunned before slaughter.

“The FSA estimates that less than 1% of all meat produced in the UK is kosher.

“Although no changes to the current regime on religious slaughter are mooted in a new EU directive on animal welfare, due to come into force in January 2013, Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Minister James Paice has noted that “member states can impose stricter rules in relation to religious slaughter if they wish”.

“He added: “I am currently considering what might be done to improve welfare in this context.”

“The UK government plans to consult on how to bring the directive into force later this year, giving an opportunity for both proponents and opponents of the current regime to rekindle the debate.”

Whilst the issue of consumers making informed choices is an important one, religious slaughter and halal meat specifically has increasingly featured in broader debates about Muslim communities in Europe. The issue was one of the focal points of the recent presidential elections in France, with the leader of the French National Front, Marine Le Pen claiming that “All the abattoirs in the Paris region sell halal meat without exception.”

In the UK, the Daily Mail has been intent on agitation on the issue with a number of alarmist and scaremongering articles on halal meat. As Mehdi Hasan argued in the New Statesman cover story earlier this month, ‘halal hysteria’ has become a “proxy for deep fears about Muslims in our midst”:

“With the threat from terrorism receding, Britain’s Islam-baiters have jumped on the anti-halal bandwagon, and not just the neo-fascists of the British National Party and the English Defence League, which has a page on its website devoted to its (anti-) “halal campaign”, but mainstream commentators, too,“ he wrote.

Hasan reiterates arguments we’ve posted here before. That is, why the disproportionate focus on ‘halal’ and not ‘kosher’ when the requirement of religious slaughter extends to both British Muslim and Jewish communities? Moreover, with the amount of attention accorded to animal welfare concerns, why the paucity of articles on modern farming techniques and animal rearing? Why is it that such regard is conveniently tacked on to articles disparaging methods used to produce halal meat?

Joe Regenstein, professor of food science at Cornell University, tells Hasan, “The truth is that halal has become a proxy for much deeper fears and concerns about the presence of a growing and vocal Muslim population in our midst.

“It’s being used as a political issue, especially by xenophobic and Islamophobic folks, to whip up a backlash against ‘the other.”

The Daily Mail’s blog section, Right Minds, carried an article over the weekend on the UK-US extradition treaty written by David Bermingham, one of the NatWest 3. Bermingham argues that the Government’s failure to reform the treaty jeopardises British democracy and the rights of British citizens to justice and a fair trial.

From the Daily Mail:

“You can tell much about the heart and soul of a government by its legislative programme. Being bold takes principles, and an ability to argue the case, cogently and with force.  

“Two separate Parliamentary committees have concluded, after lengthy enquiries, that the Extradition Act 2003 needs to be amended.

“The UK is alone in the world in allowing its own citizens to be extradited to another country to face trial, without evidence, and for crimes which, if committed at all, have been committed in the UK.

“The European Court of Human Rights decided last month that the extradition of five alleged terrorists to the US would not breach their fundamental rights, despite the prospect of life imprisonment in solitary confinement in one of America’s notorious ‘Supermax’ facilities.

“Amongst the five is Babar Ahmad, a British Muslim from London, who is accused by the Americans along with Syed Talha Ahsan of running websites inciting violent jihad in places such as Chechnya and Afghanistan over a decade ago. Mr Ahmad has the dubious distinction of being the longest serving remand prisoner in modern UK history, having been in prison contesting extradition since 2004. Like Gary McKinnon, Mr Ahsan suffers from Aspergers Syndrome and like Mr Ahmad, has been held on remand for many years.

“… the idea that we should outsource our criminal justice system for reasons of political expediency is as profound a betrayal of the British public as any imaginable.

“If the boot were on the other foot, you can be sure that the Americans would be demanding that we hand over any evidence so that they could decide whether to try the individual at home.

“Extradition may not be an issue that affects many, but its effects on the few are profound. Habeas corpus and the presumption of innocence are the cornerstones of any democracy.  The Extradition Act all but eviscerates them. It is a disgrace that the Government did not give Her Majesty something to say on the matter.”

There have been a raft of issues which have recently brought to the fore questions concerning the UK-US arrangements on the ‘war on terror,’ including agreements on intelligence-sharing which have been used to defend the redaction or withholding evidence in cases involving the UK’s alleged complicity in rendition and torture.

Writing on Politics Home, Sadiq Khan, the shadow justice minister, criticises the Government’s proposals to extend the mandate for secret trials and argues the importance of open justice:

“Any government must ensure that national security information isn’t compromised, but must do so without unduly undermining the principle of open justice. It’s for that reason the Government’s proposed introduction of new secret hearings are flawed.

“Open justice is a central pillar of our legal system: justice must be done and must be seen to be done. The principle underpins our nation’s standing as a beacon of justice and provides citizens with confidence in the workings of our courts. It’s part of the right to a fair trial, both in our common law and under the Human Rights Act.

“At the same time, keeping our country safe means that intelligence information produced by our invaluable security services and our foreign partners cannot, and should not, be disclosed, something both will understandably want to limit.

“… it appears the concerns of our allies are being misused as a Trojan Horse for far-reaching upheavals to our entire civil justice system.

“Proposed are secret court sessions, where evidence is shown only to the Judge and a ‘special advocate’ (an independent lawyer who cannot even discuss the secret evidence with the individual they represent). That evidence stays hidden if disclosure is deemed to be against the ‘public interest’ but it’s the Government, not a judge, who decides the ‘public interest’. The usual checks and balances giving proper scrutiny of government action are not present.

“Balancing civil liberties and national security is tough… Shrouding our justice system in secrecy without proper justification creates damaging mistrust and a dangerous gulf between governments and the citizens it is purporting to protect. Worst of all, it undermines the principle of open justice on which the credibility of our entire legal system depends.”

Islamophobia Watch alerts us to a report that the Scottish Defence League has been successful in its appeal against Edinburgh council’s ban on its planned march in the capital.

From STV:

“The Scottish Defence League has won an appeal to hold a rally in the capital.

“The group previously had a request to march through Edinburgh rejected by the City of Edinburgh Council.

“At Edinburgh Sheriff Court on Wednesday it was granted permission to gather on Regent Road on Saturday.

“Anti-fascism group Unite Against Fascism Edinburgh have said the city’s residents will be “rightly outraged” by the decision.

“Luke Henderson from the group said: “This is not about freedom of speech; this is about vile racists bringing a message of hate into Edinburgh. They want to divide communities and spread fear and violence. Edinburgh is one city of many cultures and in this town there is overwhelming opposition to racism and organised racists and fascists.”

The SDL have previously demonstrated in Edinburgh as well as in Glasgow, where they have been heavily outnumbered by anti-racist protesters.

The National Union of Students (NUS) has published a report looking at hate crimes and hate incidents in the higher education sector.  The report, ‘No Place for Hate: Race and Ethnicity’ is the fourth in a series of reports funded by the Home Office, exploring hate crimes and hate incidents in further and higher education.

In the foreword, the report highlights the salient nature of hate crimes, stating that “In February, figures on hate crimes from the Crown Prosecution Service showed the increase in numbers of hate crime prosecutions, more than 80 per cent of which were related to race and religion.” Such figures, it argues, illustrate the critical nature of the research based on the responses of over 9000 students in higher and further education. It is “the first nationwide, student-specific research of this scale into hate crime.”

Some of the key findings of the report include the following:

The extent and nature of hate incidents

“Asian or Asian British respondents were the group most worried about being subject to abuse because of racial prejudice, with 48 per cent saying they were very or fairly worried.

“Overall, 18 per cent of black/black British, Asian/Asian British, mixed race and Chinese respondents had experienced at least one racial hate incident during their current studies. The most common types of hate incidents were verbal abuse, threats of violence or threatening behaviour.

“Broken down by ethnicity… Chinese respondents were most likely to be victims of most types of race hate incident — 30 per cent of respondents from this group had experienced at least one incident. Nineteen per cent of Asian students stated they had been victimised because of a prejudice against their racial or ethnic identity. Fourteen per cent of black/black British students and 13 per cent of mixed race students had also experienced a racial hate incident.

“Racial prejudice was believed to be a motivating factor in 30 per cent of hate incidents, constituting 11 per cent of all incidents reported.”

Behaviour change due to worries about racial prejudice

The report notes that amongst all ethnic groups, students would change their behaviour, personal appearance or daily pattern, with black/black British students being the most likely to do so. One testimonial stated that:

“I’m avoiding going to [location anonymised] because of the planned English Defence League rally, because such groups tend to assume that people of Asian descent or with Muslim beliefs are terrorists, and I don’t want to be caught in any violence because of that.”

Another testimonial gave an example of how students made attempts to hide signs of their race, religion, ethnicity, or nationality:

“If in a really western area, I’m less likely to wear Asian clothing. And I’ve stopped wearing a headscarf.”

Multiple biases/intersectionality

On the issue of intersecting identity, or multiple bias and its relation to hate crimes, the report states that, “it is important to recognise that victims may have been targeted for reasons in addition to their actual or perceived race or ethnicity, for instance their religion or sexual orientation.

“…perpetrators are often motivated by more than one bias.

“With regard to religion and belief, 21 per cent of Jewish respondents, 17 per cent of Hindu respondents, 17 per cent of Muslim respondents and 14 per cent of Sikh respondents reported a racially motivated incident. By comparison, six per cent of Christian respondents, five per cent of Atheist respondents and five per cent of those with no religion reported a racially motivated incident.”

The report gives examples of where perpetrators may use racial and religious slurs interchangeably:

“… people [are] being called ‘Pakis’ for being Islamic.”

“… In the immediate aftermath of the 7/7 bombings I was verbally abused and even attacked for no reason along with several other people of Asian heritage purely because nowadays a vast quantity of people seem to think Asian or Muslim is freely interchangeable with terrorist.”

The report makes ten recommendations to further education and higher education institutions and organisations working within them, and states their interest to law enforcement practitioners and agencies as well as student unions:

1. Demonstrate a firm commitment to equality and diversity
2. Develop preventative and educational activity on prejudice and hate
3. Prevent or mitigate perpetrator behaviour
4. Establish multi-agency, joined-up approaches to tackling hate
5. Strengthen existing support services
6. Establish strong support networks
7. Encourage reporting and maintain systematic documentation and data collection of hate incidents
8. Provide flexible option for reporting
9. Promote greater confidence in reporting mechanisms
10. Clear guidance on existing legislative framework

The report highlights the salience of the issue of racism in higher education and the urgency with which it needs to be tackled. Only this week, BBC News reported on an investigation into racism in schools undertaken by the broadcaster using data obtained from ninety local authority areas. The investigation found that nearly 88,000 racist incidents were recorded in British schools between 2007 and 2011.

Commenting on the findings of the NUS report, Kanja Sesay, the NUS Black Students’ Officer, said that “Racially motivated hate crimes have not gone away and universities cannot afford to turn a blind eye any longer.”

The report is available to download here.

The human rights campaign group, Liberty has announced that it is to intervene in a case before the European Court of Human Rights on the prohibition of face-veiling in France.

From the Liberty press release:

“Today Liberty announced it is intervening in the European Court of Human Rights case concerning the criminalisation of face coverings in France.

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