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IAM 2020

During the month of November, Islamophobia Awareness Month was taking place. Umar Mahmood hosted the second day of the two-day conference which was attended by local MP’s, councillors, police and more. Speakers included:

Florence Eshalomi - MP for Vauxhall, Lambeth

Irfan Mohammed – Lambeth Councillor and Lead for Islamophobia

Humaira Saleem – Headteacher, Iqra VA Primary School

Colin Wingrove – BCU Commander Central South (Lambeth and Southwark)

Huda Osman – IRU Admin Assistant and Caseworker

Hauwa Shehu – District Crown Prosecutor, CPS London South and Chair, CPS Muslim Network


The seminar was being hosted live on YouTube and took place on Zoom as it was during the pandemic. Other organisers and hosts included Nordin Jahar and Moustapha Bechir. Sadly in some parts of the diverse borough of Lambeth there has been a spike in in Islamophobia and anti-Muslim hate crime. In order to raise awareness of this, a seminar was organised by the community. Ash-shahada has been working alongside community organisations, leaders and charities on community safety for a number of years and was part of a Ministry of Justice funded program in 2004 to house those released from the justice system.


Listening to concerns of residence from the beginning of the year around the levels of hate crime increasing and in general the rise of anti-Muslim sentiment across UK and elsewhere, it was necessary for us to be part of the seminar to have voices heard and see what organisations are doing to tackle it.


Florence Eshalomi MP said the Muslim community has been suffering under the hostile environment approach of the government and we have to work together for it to be called out. She continued: “One of the things I’ve very much been looking at as a Member of Parliament is some of the legislation we will be setting in Parliament and I’m quite worried about some of the language and the rhetoric coming out from the current government. It’s really important we call out some of those issues, especially where again, they will highlight and play into the hands of those people who seek to divide us.”


Cllr Irfan Mohammed said it was wonderful to have the first Islamophobia awareness conference. He continued: “This event is led by the fantastic community which it gives the identity and strength, and also shows how passionate the community is to tackle Islamophobia within borough and the wider society. Last year, we saw a real increase in engagement with the Muslim community. Sadly, we’ve had this pandemic of covid-19 which meant this year we’ve had to revisit some of the strategies we want to implement. Some of the things we have done as a Council is we’ve held a number of meetings with Muslim leaders and have dialogue with key members of the community .. [supported] two Eid receptions which were held at the Town Hall, interfaith community iftar organised at the Town Hall … adopted the definition of Islamophobia which I had raised at full Council and had two great leaders of the community in Umar Mahmood and Humaira Saleem to deputise towards.”


Humaira Saleem, Headteacher at Iqra Primary School, spoke of the anti-Muslim sentiment faced by Muslims online after a photo posted by Florence Eshalomi online of a school visit to “Mayor’s Question Time” attracted some shocking comments. She added: “Every time I read these I feel sad. I don’t have to convince you that prejudice against Muslims is really present in the British society I know that Islamophobia is wide spread in Britain. The children in my school and my family have experienced it, the women in my family and school have experienced it, I as a Muslim woman have experienced it. it is very real and very painful. It has a lasting negative impact on those who have endured it. When we held in our school the very first session to discuss with parents this issue of islamophobia, many of the mothers came forward actually and they shared with us their really horrific lived experiences such as their hijab being snatched and pulled from their heads, being called names in front of their children to the extern their children were made to cry.”


Colin Wingrove, BCU Commander for Lambeth and Southwark, spoke on the police engagement to build trust and confidence. He added: “…We can support victims and families and bring perpertrators of hate crime and Islamohpboa to justice. I think that is incredibly important. We do a huge amount of community engagement and I think that is really where it starts, trying to build trust and confidence, so we have safer neighbourhood teams and our officers in every ward .. we have what we call our partnership and prevention hub with officers who specifically deal with hate crime and faith []based] crime, making links with different organisations and certainly making links with mosques and the Muslim community in Lambeth to ensure that we can provide information and be a source of support and advice. There are many new ways over the last few years around how people can report cvrime to us. If anyone goes online and looks at the Met Police website (www.met.police.uk) ..  you can also find information about how to report crime and it takes you through those steps so you can report online those offences. In an emergency always call 999 and you can always call 101 [for reporting] but there are many new ways you can report crime because we need to know what’s happening and we need people to be confident to come forward so they can access the service that we deliver on your behalf in your local communities.

Hauwa Shehu, District Crown Prosecutor at CPS London South and Chair of CPS Muslim Network, said: “What’s been really beautiful about this session today is seeing this completely multidisciplinary approach to this problem because I think that is the only we can truly tackle it. In terms of aims and objectives, I just want to be able to give enough information to support individuals from the community, whether you are Muslim or not whatever your background is, to be able to be confident in how you can report hate crime. Representation really matters. For me growing up, I did not see black Muslim barristers and now that I have become a barrister, I know there are a lot of us. Not just Muslim barristers, but ones who are visibly Muslim. We do a lot of work with schools … because they say the girls do not see enough role models that look like them.” Hauwa recommended the community report any and all instances of Islamophobia and not to self categorise incidents, stating that the relevant authorities will deal with the cases. She also recommended a wider piece of work around education for Muslims and non-Muslims, learning about Islam and learning about how to report crimes.



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