Monthly Archives: April 2015

The Cornish Guardian and Daily Mail report on a planned school trip to a mosque in Exeter which has led to some parents withdrawing their children from the proposed outing over “safety fears”.

The local paper reports that the parents have expressed concern about the teaching of Islam in the school curriculum with one unnamed parent saying, “We have grave concerns about the children’s safety during the trip due to the horrific events that occur every day.

“We have therefore decided not to send our children on this trip. This decision is not one based on ignorance or racial or religious beliefs, but one based purely on safety concerns.”

Kat Smith, chair of school governors at Lostwithiel School in Cornwall said that it was the first time pupils had been invited to a trip to a mosque and reiterated the educational and equalities duties to be observed by the school in respect of teaching about other religions, including Islam, as part of the national curriculum and promoting good relations between people of different ethnic, racial and religious backgrounds, as required by the Equality Act 2010.

Smith said, “The Governing Body fully supports this trip and the teaching of RE, including Islam.

“It is the governors’ hope that the visit to the Mosque will provide an insight for pupils into the nature of British Islam, help them understand how Islam is presented in the media and that groups like ISIS are not a true reflection of the Islam followed by the vast majority of Muslims in Britain.”

Smith added that the school had conducted a risk assessment in relation to the trip and concluded that there was no threat or risk to the young pupils.

The trip will entail a visit to a mosque and a cathedral in Exeter. Headteacher Carolyn Huxley explained the purpose of the visit saying, “Our hope from the visit to the mosque is that children will be given a view as to what are the values and beliefs of a ‘British Muslim’.

“This trip will show the children the views of extremists are not a true reflection of Islam as a religion.”

It is not the first time parents have objected to children visiting a mosque on a school trip. In 2013, parents at a school in Edinburgh refused permission for their children to visit a mosque in Edinburgh giving reasons such a fear of hatred preached in mosques to justify their withdrawal.

The website, What Do They Know, which holds information on FOI requests submitted by individuals and the responses they receive relates quite an interesting development in respect of an FOI that questioned the Government about the Extremism Analysis Unit referred to in the Home Secretary’s speech last month.

Speaking at RUSI and setting out the Conservative party’s new counter-extremism strategy, the Home Secretary established the McCarthyite direction of current and future policy under a Conservative Government stating:

“The Government’s new Extremism Analysis Unit is already up and running and helping to inform not just this strategy but government decision making on matters such as visa applications. As the Unit grows and develops it will inform more and more of what government and the wider public sector does.”

The Home Secretary said considerably more about the EAU but as with a reference to introducing statutory recording of anti-Muslim hate crime by police forces in England and Wales, the further aspects of the speech no longer appear on the Home Office website.

What the Home Secretary also said was this:

“In particular, the Extremism analysis unit will help us develop a new engagement policy – which will set out clearly for the first time which individuals and organisations the government and public sector should engage and should not engage. This will make sure nobody unwittingly lends legitimacy or credibility to extremists or extremist organisations, and it will make very clear that government should engage with people directly and through their elected representatives – not just through self-appointed and unrepresentative community leaders.

“The Extremism analysis Unit will also inform the development of a counter-entryist strategy. We know from examples such as the Trojan Horse affair in Birmingham that extremists use entryist tactics to infiltrate legitimate organisations to promote their own agendas. The counter-entryism strategy will ensure that government, the public sector and civil society as a whole is more resilient against the danger.”

Now, there is every possibility that the paragraphs above were removed out of embarrassment seeing that the Education select committee rubbished the notion that there was ever a ‘Trojan Horse plot’ in the Birmingham schools implicated in the so-called takeover plot.

It is also quite possible that the paragraphs were removed because the illiberal direction of travel of the Conservative party, with its blacklisting of legitimate organisations through a Kafkaeque ‘Extremism Analysis Unit’, its counter-entryist strategy and its references to “self-appointed and unrepresentative community leaders,” when its policy on engaging with Muslim communities has taken precisely that form, was too much ammunition to leave at the disposal of critics of the flawed counter-radicalisation strategy pursued since 2010.

On the day of May’s speech, an academic based at University College Dublin submitted an FOI requesting further information about the role of the EAU and its remit.

The FOI also requested information as to its work on “identify[ing] which individuals and organisations are extremist and should not be engaged with” asking for “provide more details as to what this entails? In particular, how will individuals and groups be referred to the unit, with whom will these determinations be shared and what effect (legal or other) will they have?”

The website, What Do They Know, shares the response from the Home Office which refused to disclose the requested information. The response states:

“We can confirm that the Home Office holds information on the role of the EAU. However, following careful consideration, we have decided that this information is exempt from disclosure, by virtue of the exemptions at section 35(1) of the Freedom of Information Act, pertaining to the formulation of government policy. Section 35 of the Act is a qualified exemption, and requires the consideration of the Public Interest Test. We have balanced the public interest considerations for and against release of the information you request, and found that the public interest falls in favour of maintaining these exemptions.”

Dr McIntyre of University College Dublin has requested a review of the decision and you can follow progress on the What Do They Know site. It certainlywould not be the first time the Home Office has refused to shed light on what goes on and why in the name of counter-extremism.

As Guardian columnist Owen Jones guest edits an edition of the Big Issue, we look back at a February edition in which the Scottish National Party’s MSP and Minister for Europe and International Development, Humza Yousaf, discussed a personal experience of racism and why it is time to “confront the issue.”

 

Yousaf participated in ‘The Big Sell-Off’ initiative that hopes to raise awareness of homelessness in the UK. The MSP describes the incident where he received a tirade of racial abuse from a member of the public: “Based on nothing but the colour of my skin, a passer-by assumed I wasn’t from Scotland – and took the time to tell me. I have had many an insult thrown at me during my life but by far the worst insult is being told to “go home” when you were born and raised in this country,” said the MSP.

 

Yousaf urged “media outlets such as the Daily Mail” to be cautious of using popular rhetoric that dehumanises migrants when writing articles on immigration, a hotly debated topic in the run-up to this election thanks to UKIP.

 

“Using words such as ‘invasions’, ‘floods’ or ‘armies of immigrants’ ‘descending’ upon the UK can unintentionally fan the flames of racial tension in our country,” Yousaf argued.

 

The promotion of the harmful ‘us’ vs ‘them’ narrative in the media – ‘them’ being the people who take ‘our’ jobs and benefit from ‘our’ country undeservedly- has heightened racism in the UK according to the Scottish MP.

 

Yousaf believes that particular nationalities are being scapegoated by some newspapers – “headlines that marginalise or target specific nationalities are often unhelpful,”he said recalling “a tirade against Romanians and Bulgarians” when he was selling the Big Issue.

 

Yousaf argues that the BBC programme ‘The Street’ which aired in late February this year shows that racism in Scotland very much exists. The programme captured the moment two “thugs” unleashed a verbal and physical racist attack on a homeless busker in Glasgow’s city centre.

 

Yousaf urges Scots to be “vigilant and never complacent about racism” and the media and political parties to address the issue because it still happens on a “regular basis”.

 

It was only a month after Yousaf’s article in the Big Issue that a UKIP candidate created a furore for referring to Humza Yousaf as Abu Hamza.

 

MEP David Coburn’s offensive comment was dismissed by UKIP party leader Nigel Farage as a “joke in poor taste”, but his lack of action led prospective candidate Tim Wilson, who was expected to stand for the South Northamptonshire seat, to resign.

 

Yousaf, who wrote a letter of complaint to Farage after Coburn’s remark, expressed his utter disappointment at “UKIP’s pathetic response to religious hatred, racism and bigotry.”

 

As Yousaf had hoped, the major political parties have all pledged to tackle racism and racial and religiously motivated hate crime in their 2015 manifestos released this month.

Labour introduced a specific BAME (Black and Minority Ethnic) manifesto in April which addresses issues of education, employment, security and counter terrorism, race equality and anti-discrimination.

Labour promise to “extend opportunity for all” and to take “robust” action against hate crime through legislative measures and work with ethnic communities, together with a raft of other policies including a “cross government race equality strategy”.

The Liberal Democrats pledge to “monitor and tackle the BAME pay gap”, with the introduction of ‘name blank’ CVs in public sector job recruitment being one way to do so. The policy did feature in their 2010 manifesto, but failed to be implemented in the coalition. They also want to investigate the treatment of BAME individuals in the criminal justice system.

The Conservative manifesto is rather vague in comparison to rival parties. They suggest that the labour market should be more “inclusive”, but make specific mention of women and the disabled only when advancing policies on “inclusion”. They also propose increasing the number of Black and minority ethnic police officers, reviewing hate crime legislation and modifying ‘stop and search’ powers if “stop to arrest ratios do not improve.”

The Lincolnshire Echo reports on the inquiry to be conducted by the National College for Teaching and Leadership into alleged remarks made about Islam by a BNP affiliated teacher while teaching at a school in the local area.

Reverend Robert West, who is a member of the BNP and its candidate for the parliamentary seat of Boston and Skegness, is due to appear before an NCTL panel for making comments which displayed “intolerance for the faith and beliefs of others” and “lack of respect for the faith and beliefs of others”.

West is said to have made the comments while teaching a class about the Crusades at the Walton Girls High School and Sixth Form in Grantham.

Charges based on his membership of the BNP and allegations of racism have been withdrawn according to the local paper. The NCTL panel dismissed membership of the BNP from within the scope of its inquiry stating, “an affiliation to any legal political party was not in itself a matter that could be regarded as unacceptable professional conduct and/or conduct that may bring the profession into disrepute.”

West could face a lifetime ban from teaching if the panel finds the allegations bear truth.

Revd. West has expressed public support for the BNP and made derogatory remarks about Islam in the past. A pamphlet published by London Elects for the London mayoral election in 2010 included a quote by West in favour of the BNP candidate, Carlos Cortiglia, which read: “I’m backing the British National party because they support our traditional Christian faith. We need strong leadership to protect our national identity from the threat of Islam.”

The panel’s inquiry is expected to last all week.

The Sunday Times last month revealed that the NCTL is also pursuing cases in relation to around “100 Islamist teachers” following the conclusions of inquiries by the Department for Education and Peter Clarke into the so-called ‘Trojan horse’ plot. The Education select committee in its report concluded that there was no evidence of a plot, which leaves open to question the basis on which the NCTL investigations are being pursued.

The Sunday Times reported, “The NCTL has obtained “dossiers” about some of the 100 staff it is targeting from the Department for Education (DfE) as part of its inquiries. The dossiers are understood to include information from last year’s Trojan Horse investigation by Peter Clarke, the former head of counter terrorism at Scotland Yard.”

Among claims to be investigated against the teachers are findings of an “al-Qaeda style video [which] was copied at Park View Academy, one of the schools involved in the Trojan Horse affair, and that teachers punished children by making them kneel on tiles.

“More than 50 staff members in schools across Birmingham also allegedly exchanged messages in a WhatsApp group which included homophobic remarks, offensive comments about British soldiers, claims that the murder of soldier Lee Rigby in Woolwich, southeast London, was a hoax, and discussion of segregating boys and girls.“

The West London online news site, Get West London, reports on a hate crime survey being run by police officers in Hounslow to help improve incident reporting and police handling of hate crime in the borough.

The site reports that hate crimes in the area rose by almost 10% on the previous year with “367 racist and religious hate crimes recorded across the borough during the last year, with 29 cases of Islamophobia, 28 of homophobia and two anti-Semitic crimes.”

The borough wide increase is lower than the increase recorded across London as a whole with recent statistics from the Metropolitan Police Service revealing a 25.7 per cent increase in racial or religious hate crimes in the last year.

Home Office statistics for the period April 2013 – March 2014 show a 45% increase in religious hate crimes in England and Wales and a 4% increase in race hate crimes.

The survey is being rolled out by Hounslow police to try and address the chronic under-reporting of hate crime by eliciting feedback from victims on what they think “should be done to help stamp out hate crime and improve the way officers deal with offences.”

The survey can be accessed here.

The Evening Standard reports on an appeal by British Transport Police to identify a woman suspected of abusing a hijab wearing Muslim woman on the Piccadilly line in central London last month.

The incident happened on the afternoon of March 10, at around 4.15pm, when the Muslim female and a companion were waiting for a train on the eastbound Piccadilly line platform at Kings Cross Station. The woman felt someone push against her and when she turned around, she was subjected to a bout of verbal abuse.

The paper quotes PC Elspeth Cook who said: “The victim, who was wearing a hijab, was waiting to board a train when she felt someone push against her, turned around, and was racially abused by a woman.

“This abuse continued on the train, leaving the victim extremely upset.

“She was comforted by other passengers, until the train reached Caledonian Road, where she left and reported the matter.”

BTP have released a CCTV image of a woman they would like to speak to in connection with the incident. PC Cook stated, “I believe the woman in the image we are issuing today can help us with our investigation. Who is she?”

Just last week, statistics from an FOI submitted to British Transport Police revealed that the agency recorded four race hate crimes a day on the UK’s transport network in 2014.

Anyone with information that could help identify the woman in the CCTV image should contact British Transport Police on 0800 40 50 40, or text 61016, quoting reference TSUB/B10 of 22/04/2015 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

The Muslim News this week carries an interview with Labour party leader, Ed Miliband, in which he elaborates on the party’s plans to tackle Islamophobia if they form the next Government on 7 May.

Miliband referred to the party’s manifesto pledge to introduce recording of Islamophobia as a category of crime; the commitment to a develop a cross department race equality strategy and the commitment to create a cross department strategy on hate crime, from schools to social media, including reviewing police and Crown Prosecution Guidance on Islamophobia, antisemitism and other social media hate crimes.

Miliband told the editor of The Muslim News, Ahmed Versi, “We are going to make it an aggravated crime. We are going to make sure it is marked on people’s records with the police to make sure they root out Islamophobia as a hate crime.”

“We are going to change the law on this so we make it absolutely clear of our abhorrence of hate crime and Islamophobia. It will be the first time that the police will record Islamophobic attacks right across the country.”

Speaking about his commitment to “overhaul” the Prevent strategy and make it more “community focused”, the Labour leader said, “The reality is that the people I talk to in the Muslim community are absolutely full square with the idea that we’ve got to make sure that we work with our young people to stop them being dragged into this perverted (terrorist) ideology.”

“The way to do it is the Prevent programme working with communities. You got to do the things that once this ideology takes hold you try to disrupt it. For me that is the answer. We want to see how the Prevent programme is community focused.”

Miliband exhorted the importance of voting in the general election saying “It is very important that people vote in the general elections. Stakes are incredibly high in this elections.”

The significance of Muslim and BME voters in this election has been a feature of debate for some years with the Runnymede Trust revealing earlier this week that the Conservatives could lose as many as nine seats for failing to appeal to BME voters. Muslims voters, as the Ethnic Minority British Election Study has stated, have a tendency to vote Labour but the strength of this support has been waning.

Spelling out what Labour has learnt from its loss in electoral appeal among Muslim voters, the Labour leader said, “If you look at what I have done as Leader of the Labour Party I have learnt the lesson of Iraq war, I said no to military action in Syria in summer of 2013 when it was controversial. I have moved forward in the position to causes of Palestinian people.”

“Our Government will be absolutely committed to equality not just in law but in fact too. We are committed to race equality strategy. That is why we are committed to breaking down barriers of discrimination,” he added.

“If you want the Government to stand up for working people it will be a Labour Government. So I urge people to vote in the elections because it is going to be a close election and if people don’t turn out to vote the danger is that you end up with Conservatives in power. So I will ask people to go out and vote,” he stated.

You can read the full interview here.

A Warwick University student has created a campaign to challenge Islamophobia in the UK, Huffington Post reports. In the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris earlier this year, Maahwish Mirza observed that “casual” Islamophobic comments had increased on social media.

She set up a platform inviting staff and faculty at Warwick to present messages on tackling Islamophobia and why. She told HuffPost UK that the response from students at Warwick had been “phenomenal”.

“I’ve had Muslim and non-Muslim students I’ve never spoken to sharing the campaign and messaging me saying that they feel so happy to see the pictures,” said Mirza.

Mirza explained how “experiencing Islamophobia can make you feel very isolated, so this campaign goes the other way in making people feel that they belong. That was the aim of my campaign.”

The campaign involves filling in a placard that begin “Challenge Islamophobia because…” and sharing a message. A range of Warwick University students and staff have participated with messages such as:

“Challenge Islamophobia because no group should be characterised by the views of a minority”

“Challenge Islamophobia because the extremists do NOT define us”

“Challenge Islamophobia because is the real Islam the Islam we see in the media?”

“Challenge Islamophobia because religions aren’t violent, people are”

Mirza’s campaign has gained the approval of the vice chancellor of Warwick University, Nick Thrift, who joined in by sharing the message: “Challenge Islamophobia because stereotypes are lazy and dangerous.”

Islamophobia is a very real concern with recent figures from the Met Police revealing the year on monthly increase in anti-Muslim hate crime in London. The figures show that racial or religious hate crimes increased by 25.7% in the last year. A monthly year on comparison shows that Islamophobic hate crimes reported to the Met in the month of March increased by just over 100% from 2014 to 2015. The Met recorded 36 Islamophobic crimes in March 2014 and 73 in March 2015.

The British Transport Police also released statistics last week that showed that four race hate crimes a day were reported on public transport in 2014.

The results from a poll conducted in February this year, commissioned by BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, shows the extent to which Muslims feel the impact of prejudice and hatred with just over a third of British Muslims saying they felt people did not trust them and nearly half (46%) said prejudice against Islam makes it difficult to be a Muslim in the UK. The poll also reveals, though it went largely unreported, that more Muslim women (19%) than men (10%) did not feel safe as a Muslim in Britain.

Research supports this notion that Muslim women are more likely to be victims of anti-Muslim hate crime because they can be visually identified as Muslims due to the hijab, niqab, or other clothing associated with Islam. In May last year, Ava Vidal shared some of the Islamophobic responses she received to her Daily Telegraph article on the rising number of attacks on Muslim women in the UK.

One response read: “What is the problem? Can’t Ninjas take care of themselves?” Vidal asked if this flippant reaction to serious hate crime is “because we are subjected to so many negative images of Muslims that we have become desensitised?”

Research by Dr Nabil Khattab of Bristol University published this month shows that this prejudice manifests itself not only in hate crime but also employment discrimination. The study found that Muslim women were 71% more likely to be unemployed than white Christian women, even when they had the same educational level and language proficiency.

The 2015 party political manifestos of the main parties show the varying degrees to which they are committed to tackling Islamophobia and anti-Muslim hate crime.

The Labour Party promised in its manifesto: “We will make sure hate crime is properly recorded, including incidents of Islamophobia. Labour will develop a cross- government strategy on hate crime, from schools to social media, to tackle the growth in anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.”

The Conservatives, despite the Home Secretary, Theresa May, announcing in her new counter extremism strategy speech that “we will require police forces to record anti-Muslim crimes as well as anti-Semitic ones, have committed only to “review the legislation governing hate crimes”.

The Liberal Democrats state they will “work closely with faith and community organisations…to prevent hate crime, including at places of worship like synagogues and mosques. We are determined to combat anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim hate in the UK and internationally.”

The Runnymede Trust have published a report on race, ethnicity and equality in elections, with several academic contributors offering perspectives on issues such as thechanging party allegiances of different ethnic groups, political mobilisation of religious communities, the far right in the UK and BME representation in parliament to name a few.

Runnymede’s director Omar Khan notes that the changing demographic of the BME population in the UK has increased their electoral significance though how far political parties have responded well to the changing demography is less certain. “From less than 5% nationally (3 million people) in 1991, the BME population in 2011 rose to 13% – at 8 million, equivalent to the combined population of Scotland and Wales,” Khan writes.

Khan argues that BME voting power will continue to grow. With only 5% of over 60s coming from BME backgrounds, of those under 18 over, 20% are from BMEbackgrounds. By 2020, 10% of those aged 60-64 will be of BME backgrounds as will almost 20% of those aged 40 and under.

Oxford University Professor Anthony Heath in his contribution argues that BME party allegiances are changing. The 2010 Ethnic Minority British Election Study (EMBES)showed that while 68% of BME voters supported Labour, there were some clear differences when looking at specific ethnicities with 24% of Indians voting for the Conservative Party compared to only 18% of Bangladeshis, 13% of Pakistanis, 9% of Carribeans and just 6% of Africans.

Heath argues that “minorities are not a monolithic Labour-supporting bloc vote.” Nearly a quarter of the voters of Pakistani background supported the Liberal Democrats in 2010, according to the EMBES.  Whilst this was largely due to Labour’s decisions to go to war in Iraq and Afghanistan, Heath argues it was only partly to blame for divergences in allegiance. The policy agendas of minorities may not be as distinctively left-wing as one would assume, with the EMBES study showing that ethnic minority groups are actually 12% more in favour of cutting taxes than the electorate as a whole. Topics like immigration divide the BME vote, with Indians being notable for their anti- immigration stance.

Heath warns that minority support for Labour should not be taken for granted by the party, using George Galloway and the Respect Party as an example. In 2005,Galloway was expelled from the Labour party for his fierce opposition to the Iraq war but then won the Bethnal Green and Bow constituency and more recently overturned a safe Labour seat in the Bradford West by-election in 2012. Minorities, particularly the Muslim communities, are likely to be heavily influenced by policy preferences on specific issues in the ballot box, such as the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Heath argues.

Heath also points to the issues that ethnic minorities raise as important to them such as “a concern to be offered equal opportunities in British society.”

Maria Sobolewska of Manchester University discusses the religious political mobilisation of BME voters. The 2010 EMBES showed that minorities who attended their places of worship regularly trusted political institutions, such as the UK parliament, to a greater degree and felt they could influence British politics. Sobolewska argues that “engagement in their local communities through a place of worship” is key for those who do not participate in politics in other ways and may even be the difference between voting and not voting.

Sobolewska raises the question of whether religion has a place in politics and refers to popular distrust of the role of religion in politics. She refers to research which shows that places of worship can perform a vital role in connecting individual to politics given the low rate of contact by political parties. For example, in the last election 54% of white Britons questioned said they had been contacted by at least one political party but among ethnic minorities, this figure was less than a third, 29%. Places of worship can therefore play a role that political parties are not fulfilling adequately.

Sobolweska goes on to look at perceptions of mosques as fuelling extremist positions or distrust of political institutions and finds that “the worries about places of worship mobilising an insular and extremist political activity seen unwarranted bar a few isolated exceptions.”

Runnymede’s report warns low BME support could cost Conservatives nine seats in 2015 if they continue to fail to engage with voters from minorities.

Dr Nicole Martin of the University of Essex discusses how the growing demographic profile of BME communities has prompted the Conservatives to dramatically increase the number of ethnic minority MPs and candidates in winnable seats. They are now likely to match Labour’s numbers in 2015, having started from a position of no BME MPs in 2005.

There were 132 ethnic minority candidates standing from Labour, Conservative and the Liberal Democrats in 2010.  However, “the Liberal Democrat experience” proves how important being selected for a winnable seat is. They failed to elect any ethnic minority MPs in 2010, despite fielding 41 minority candidates. There were a substantial number of Muslim candidates – 55 from three largest parties Labour, Conservatives and Liberal Democrats.

Martin discusses inherent discrimination taking place in constituencies and whether minority candidates fare worse due to their race. In 2010, ethnic minority candidates did receive lower shares of the vote. Martin refers to a study which compared how incumbent MPs facing an ethnic minority opponent fared in comparison to those who did not. Alarmingly, white incumbent candidates received more votes when standing against an ethnic minority opponent, implying that some voters express a bias in favour of white candidates. Martin notes that this is sometimes due to white voters with racist and a strong anti-immigrant stance avoiding voting for BME or Muslim candidates. Martin argues “this is solid evidence that in 2010, ethnic minority parliamentary candidates faced an electoral penalty on account of their ethnicity.”

Even more worrying is that this electoral disadvantage means that parties may be reluctant to put minority ethnic candidates in any seats that are not safe and winnable.

Increasing ethnic diversity of the population means greater diversity in parliament is necessary so that minority communities’ interests are better represented. Martin concludes that positive change is being made stating “it is not just minority MPs who are interested in issues of equality; all MPs ask more questions about ethnic minority rights and equality issues if they have an ethnically diverse constituency.”

The Speakers Conference report on Parliamentary Representation sets out a number of recommendations to improve the level of BME representation in the House of Commons. While many of the recommendations remain on paper and important area which appears to be neglected and is no less relevant in the elections this year given the local elections taking place on the same day, is the level of BME representation in local politics.

Nigel Copsey looks at the waning electoral significance of the far right in British politics and its continuing “everyday impact upon local communities”. While the far right BNP and other smaller parties, such as the National Front or Liberty GB, have failed to reverse terminal decline at the ballot box, these far right parties still present social challenges in the form of racial tension or violence.

For the 2015 General Election, the three major parties have, to different degrees, addressed the concerns of minority voters. The Conservative manifesto is still relatively limited with proposals to increase the numbers of Black and minority ethnic police officers, review hate crime legislation and modify how stop and search arrests are conducted “if stop to arrest ratios do not improve.”

Labour introduced a specific BAME manifesto last week, pledging to “extend opportunity for all” and to take “robust” action against hate crime, alongside a raft of other policies including a “cross government race equality strategy”. The Liberal Democrats made pledges in their manifesto, promising to “monitor and tackle the BAME pay gap”, to review BAME individuals treatment in the criminal justice system and to introduce ‘name blank’ CVs in public sector job recruitment –which featured in their 2010 manifesto, but failed to be implemented in the coalition.

A number of the concerns of Muslims raised in MEND’s Muslim Manifesto have been touched upon by some parties. The Conservatives, Labour and the Lib Dems are all committed to protecting religious practices including halal slaughter. Labour have pledged to improve the recording of Islamophobic hate crimes and overhaul the current ‘Prevent’ government strategy. Both Labour and the Liberal Democrats want to involve communities in the tackling of extremism, with the Lib Dems pledging to ensure Muslims are not stigmatised or alienated by counter-terrorism policies. You can find out more about ‘who committed to what’ on MEND’s website.

BME groups in Scotland, the far-right vote and the rise of UKIP are some other of the issues discussed in ‘Race and Elections’. The full report can be read here.

The Independent yesterday reported on the controversial Sun columnist Katie Hopkins who has again been referred to the police for inciting racial hatred after the Society of Black Lawyers wrote to the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, to protest about her depiction of migrants in a column published last week.

Hopkins was referred to the police by Rochdale MP, Simon Danczuk, after a twitter exchange in which Hopkins made a series of comments about Pakistanis and sex grooming. Hopkins has engaged in Muslim-baiting before by making derogatory remarks about the Prophet Muhammad and posting offensive messages during Ramadan.

Peter Herbert, chair of the SBL, has written to the Met Commissioner referring to Hopkins’ description of migrants as “cockroaches” and suggesting the use of “gunships” to keep them out of fortress Europe as “some of the most offensive, xenophobic and racist comments I have read in a British newspaper for some years”.

Herbert has urged the matter be investigated for a possible breach of the Public Order Act and the law on incitement to racial hatred. He wrote. “Given the huge circulation of these comments in the Sun and in the media generally, the propensity for racial violence against people of African descent in the UK is obvious. We request that these matters be investigated as a matter of urgency and the case file be passed to the CPS for a decision to be made as to the merits of a prosecution.”

Herbert has singled out Hopkins, the Sun’s editor, David Dinsmore, and “other editorial staff involved in the publication of this commentary.”

Herbert also noted the petition to be submitted by the SBL to the International Criminal Court for an “investigation into these comments under the provisions of incitement to commit crimes against humanity.”

It is not the first time Hopkins’ outbursts have elicited strong popular support against her appearing on mainstream media platforms. A petition calling for her to be barred from ITV and Channel 5 reached 85,000 signatures and she was duly sacked from This Morning. But if Dinsmore’s response to Muslims who have petitioned for her removal from the Sun for her anti-Muslim outpourings is anything to go by, Hopkins’ brand of repugnant, populist racism will be passed off as fair comment.