Almost half of Muslims living in Leeds feel they’re treated unequally because of their faith, a new report has suggested.
A survey of 221 Muslims in the city found 49 per cent disagreed with the idea they were “currently treated as equal citizens in Leeds”.
The report, which examined Islamophobia and anti-Muslim prejudice in the city in great detail, concluded many local victims were “suffering in silence”.
It found two thirds of those who’d experienced hate did not report abuse and attacks to the police or any other authority.
Leeds Labour councillor Javaid Akhtar, who is himself Muslim, said many minority groups had “lost confidence” in the system, because “they don’t feel they will be listened to”.
Councillor Akhtar said: “We need to build that relationship and that confidence so people feel able to report it and then at least we have a database and a record of it.
“I’ve always said that minority groups, including Muslims, don’t get the same opportunities in either jobs or education.
“The reason why a lot of Muslims go into self-employment is because the career ladder isn’t as open for them.
“Across industry generally, you’ve got to work twice as hard as your colleagues and you’ve got to be more pro-active.”
The report was prepared for the city council by the Centre for Peace, Trust and Social Relations, which is based at Coventry University.
It featured anonymised testimony from a number of victims.
One woman said: “I was walking through Roundhay Park with my then young children and was shouted at by a man to remove my headscarf, as I live in Britain.”
Another said: “I was in McDonald’s and a Muslim girl who was wearing a hijab was verbally abused by someone for wearing one, so I stepped in and stuck up for her and the woman physically assaulted me.”
Some victims said they didn’t report incidents for fear of repurcussions, while others cited being unable to provide sufficient evidence.
Another said: “Nothing can come from reporting this as it’s not seen as
important and no one has time for us. Police are too busy.”
The report’s findings will go before Leeds’ most senior councillors next week, as the local authority is expected to adopt a specific definition for what constitutes anti-Muslim prejudice.
This has been done in other areas around the country, including in Bradford.
The council says adopting a definition is significant, because it builds on current legislation and will help authorities and communities, “Work together with a common purpose in tackling hatred”.
The council’s proposed definition of anti-Muslim prejudice in full
“Anti-Muslim Prejudice is hatred and discrimination against anyone of Islamic faith on grounds of their belief and practice.”
This could manifest in:
- Inciting or carrying out acts of racism, hatred and violence against people, and
those perceived to be, of the Islamic faith (Muslims).
- Direct or indirect acts of discrimination and exclusion including policy and practice
within organisations, which deny Muslims legitimate, fair and equal access to
opportunities, facilities and services because of their faith, beliefs and practice.
- Denying people of the Islamic faith the opportunity to practise their faith values, free of harassment, fear of violence against them or fear of incurring discrimination and hatred against them.
- Actions which perpetuate a climate of mistrust, fear and a sense of marginalisation about or within the Islamic community e.g. remarks by individuals and groups that can be made without fear of being held to account. Also use of print, social or electronic media to align and create fear and division surrounding the Muslim community.”