At a time when we have a Prime Minister whose parents are from the Punjab, a First Minister and Labour leader in Scotland with parents of Pakistani origin, and a Home Secretary with Indian heritage, one might conclude that Britain is fast becoming a model of diversity.
Yet last weekend, campaigners were forced to take to the streets of Kings Heath to express revulsion over an attack on an elderly gentleman making his way home from the mosque. It was the second attack in Birmingham in a week. Police say the events aren’t related. That appears to be true, although similarities cannot be ignored. They were both older men, on their way home from the mosque, and the attacks happened within a few miles of each other in Edgbaston and Kings Heath.
They occurred during Ramadan, suggesting Islamophobia and classic hate crime. They don’t fit with a view of Britain as a tolerant, multi-cultural society, but hate crimes, directed at people on the basis of religion, culture and ethnicity, have been on the rise for several years.
According to the Community Security Trust, an organisation which protects Jewish people, there were more than 1600 anti Jewish hate crimes last year. It’s one reason why we must be ever vigilant on antisemitism. There were almost double that number of anti-Muslim hate crimes. Today CST and Islamic support groups have formed strong bonds of cooperation to combat the threat they face from far right extremists.
One might expect that a consequence of having political leaders with such diverse backgrounds is that they’d all extol the virtues of tolerance and point to the opportunities available in multi-cultural Britain. Some do, but not all politicians play by those rules. Last Sunday, the Home Secretary deliberately chose to link child sexual exploitation with men of Pakistani origin. I want all those involved in such abuse brought to justice but she knows that her own Home Office review concludes that the majority of offenders are White males. I’m not sure it’s in the interests of the majority for those in power to encourage such false impressions.