This year has sadly been defined by increased hostility and hatred. It has been a year in which the vilifying of the "other" has been socially and politically mainstreamed, resulting in further incidents of hate crime. All too often it is the most vulnerable in our society that fall the greatest victim to this hostility.
At the JAN Trust, we continue to see first hand the results that such rhetoric causes. Since our inception 30 years ago, women have been approaching the trust about a wide range of issues, but the reporting of hate crime by beneficiaries – particularly Islamophobia – has risen considerably in recent years. This ranges from verbal abuse to physical assaults.
The government has rightly made a commitment to tackle hate crime and increased funding to tackle to the issue. However, much of this funding is aimed at the police and other public bodies, and a select number of larger organisations, such as Tell Mama, a national, government-funded project. These services are indeed needed, but many organisations and charities such as the JAN Trust are working in communities that carry out vital work, both educating and supporting victims of hate crime, who receive no funding for the work they do. As a result, many organisations can sadly offer only limited support to those who might not be able to seek help elsewhere.
Hate crime can have a negative impact on many aspects of a victim’s life. It can also affect whole communities because local people might be forced to change their patterns of life in order to protect themselves and their families. This is why as charities we must develop an appropriate and tailored response to the harsh reality we find ourselves in, both in terms of the socio-political climate and funding difficulties.
Our experience at the JAN Trust shows that there are in essence three prongs to tackling racial and religiously motivated hate crime: support services, education and lobbying.
The victims of hate crime almost always need a safe space where they feel able to talk about their experience and understand the options that are available to them, both in terms of further support but also with regards to reporting the incident, something a worryingly high percentage of people don’t do. Reporting incidents is extremely important because it allows us to understand the types of hate crime and their frequency, but also to formulate a response to tackling hate crime.
Education is important in two respects. Education of victims and education of society as a whole will help to mitigate against further increases and eventually reduce the overall incidents of hate crime. Over the years, we have found that victims of hate crime have struggled to see the value in reporting hate crimes, so we must continue to educate people about why reporting incidents is so valuable.
Through lobbying, we must continue to make sure the voices of those we represent are heard by policy-makers at both a local and a national level, and develop an effective policy response.
It is deeply unjust that in 2018 people’s lives are being dictated by such hatred and intolerance and that people do not feel able to freely go about their daily lives.
There will be repercussions, for individuals, communities and society as whole, if hate crime is not dealt with appropriately in a timely manner.
As a sector and a society, we will be judged for years to come on our ability to tackle head on not only the drivers of hate crime, but also our ability to respond to the victims.
Sajda Mughal is chief executive of the JAN Trust, which supports marginalised and isolated BAME women and young people