Muslims are being “targeted and blamed” because of brutal actions from extreme terror group ISIS, say Tyneside campaigners.
They are now calling for a better understanding between Muslims and the non-Muslim community after noticing increased levels of tension in the aftermath of videos released by the terrorist organisation.
New figures show racial hate crime in the North East has rocketed.
Elswick councillor Dipu Ahad said the images of Isis that have emerged over the last two months has caused more suspicion and negative views of the Muslim community.
He said: “Any time something happens the whole of the Muslim community is targeted and blamed. It was the same during the murder of Lee Rigby. I’m not saying it’s everyone but they are feeling that people are targeting them, they do feel it.”
He said tensions have risen despite widespread condemnation of Isis within the Muslim community. “Muslims don’t behead innocent people – they don’t do things the way Isis do. The Muslim people here condemn ISIS. They see they’re not even Muslim,” he said.
His comments come after messages about Isis were spray-painted in the locations across the West End of Newcastle. The graffiti, which read ‘Turkish Isis supporters’ was condemned by local businessmen and campaigners as an anti-Muslim action and was swiftly removed by Newcastle City Council.
Police charged Aryan Mahmood Ramadan, 25, of Prospect Place, Newcastle, with criminal damage and possessing items to cause damage, after the incident.
Blakelaw councillor David Stockdale said Isis had nothing to do with Muslims in the area. He told The Chronicle: “Isis are to Islam what the Klu Klux Klan were to Christianity.”
Northumbria Police claimed an increase in reported hate crimes shows commitment to tackling the issue. Figures released show that the number of reported hate crimes in the force area has increased from 579 in 2012/13 to 683 in 2013/14. The figures include the five strands of hate crime: disability, race, religion or belief, sexual orientation and gender identity.
Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner Vera Baird said: “Overall these figures represent a commitment from this force to tackle the crimes that have the most impact on people and their daily lives. Hate crime will not be tolerated in Northumbria and I’m totally committed to tackling all types of hate crime in our communities. We want people to have the confidence to report any incident or seek help or advice about any issue they think might be a hate crime.”
Deputy Chief Constable Steve Ashman said: “The force continually reviews hate crime training and ensures officers work closely with all communities. We’re currently rolling out refreshed training which will help.”
And campaigner Abu Tayeb, founder of Islamic Diversity, which campaigns for a better understanding of the Muslim faith, said tensions are building despite Muslim figures condemning ISIS and their actions.
He said: “I don’t know how much the Muslim community needs to speak out against Isis. Every mosque and imam have spoken out against them. The Muslim community has been disgusted by beheadings of late. It’s un-Islamic. Alan Henning was working for a Muslim organisation, he was pro-Muslim and was helping children. It’s completely outrageous.”
He told The Chronicle of a recent video in which he and other local Muslim figures condemned Isis. The video drew nasty comments online, with some users suggesting Tayeb himself should be beheaded. He said: “The video is clearly condemning Isis but people were saying ‘maybe you should behead Abu Tayeb’. I just brush it off, but other Muslims might not take it like that. They may well feel threatened.”
The three leaders have called for a better understanding of the Muslim faith and more tolerance between the different communities in the area. Ahad said: “We are working with all sides of the community. If Muslims feel any threats towards them they need to report it. We are working with the council and the police to make sure this doesn’t spill out on to the streets.”
See also “The pro-ISIS graffiti that wasn’t”, Islamophobia Watch, 14 October 2014