Racism and hate crime spike in referendum aftermath

Leave campaigners must denounce xenophobic violence and abuse

Reports of racist abuse and hate crime have spiked since the results of the EU referendum were announced on Friday, with social media reports suggesting that that Poles and Muslims are particularly vulnerable.

Over the weekend, a Polish cultural centre in Hammersmith was vandalised, laminated cards with racist messages were pushed through letterboxes in Huntingdon and two men were arrested at a mosque in Birmingham for protesting with a ‘Rapefugees Not Welcome’ banner.

London mayor Sadiq Khan has called on police to be extra vigilant, while Labour MP Jess Phillips has announced that she will ask a question in parliament about the issue this week.

Facebook and Twitter pages have also been set up to document worrying incidents.

Dr. Shuja Shafi, secretary general of The Muslim Council of Britain issued the following statement:

“As the results of the referendum became known, I called for our politicians to come together and heal the divisions that have emerged as a result of the campaign. Now we are witnessing the shocking extent of this with reports around the country of hate speech and minorities being targeted.

“We need leadership now more than ever before. Our country is experiencing a political crisis which, I fear threatens the social peace. Whatever differences we may have, it is vitally important that we demonstrate solidarity for those attacked, and state, in the words of the murdered MP Jo Cox, that ‘We have far more in common than which divides us.”

While those who led the Leave campaign cannot be held responsible for the actions of individuals, they will face pressure to acknowledge that the referendum result has been interpreted by some people as a justification of violence and hate.

If nothing else, many reports suggest that Leave voters believed that migrants would be forced to leave immediately, and leaders should rapidly clarify that that is not the case.

They should also make clear to EU migrants and Muslims in the UK that they are entitled to be here, and their safety is paramount.

Then, over the coming weeks and months, they should make it clear to all their supporters that hatred and xenophobia are no more tolerable in post-Brexit Britain than they were before.

While the leave vote presents threats and challenges to people across the country, it must be priority to show solidarity with those who no longer feel welcome in their home or safe on the streets.

Niamh Ní Mhaoileoin is editor of Left Foot Forward. Follow her on Twitter


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