Birmingham City Council Vows to Smash Hate Crime



Last week, the Birmingham Council House played host to Councillor Waseem Zaffar, students from multiple different Birmingham schools and Tell Mama, an anti-hate crime organisation. The day saw 150 students of different ages discussing and debating the different types of hate crime and coming up with solutions to tackle it. The day gave students a chance to engage with the political sphere of their city as well as tackle social and political issues throughout schools and wider society.

The schools taking part included Arthur Terry High School, Rockwood Academy, Lordswood School, Hamstead Hall Academy and Eden Boys School. They received an insightful explanation as to the Council, with regards to how debates are run, the purpose of the council and how it works.

Following up was a presentation by Iman Abou Atta, the director of Tell Mama. She explained the aims of the organisation, which functions as a third party calling centre for people to voice any hate crimes. Iman’s powerful presentation brought to light chilling experiences of discrimination as well as prejudice that might often go unnoticed. In particular, she gave two stories about the perils of hate crime. One involved Sports Direct barring Jewish boys from entering the store. Another involved a young Muslim girl working for the Savoy hotel who received humiliating discrimination from the staff and was told to work in the back room to avoid being seen by customers. It elicited a range of emotions from the students; shock, anger, confusion.

Iman brought to light all the different types of discrimination: gender, age, race, religion, ethnicity, disability, appearance, dialect, social class and more. The children were articulate and well engaged, offering their own reasoning as to why hate crime exists. Iman called the students “highly engaging” and added “they’re well aware of what hate crime is and I suppose hate crime and bullying intersect and they’re part of each other. What we can see is that there’s so much hate crime taking place in schools and I hope this session brings more awareness to young kids so they know how they can stand up against it and tackle it.”

When asked about racist jokes, often time dismissed as ‘playful banter’ among students and online, one student from Eden Boys Schools said: “they’re really bad as they can promote people to carry on [discriminating] and can turn a little joke into a massive thing.”

Another student said “we learned about hate crime and how it needs to be stopped, and racism and discrimination and all these things are corrupting our society and we need to get rid of them.”

Conversations inevitably turned to Brexit and Trump, with one student asking Councillor Zaffar what the Council plans to do regarding the 14% increase in racist attacks following the referendum. Zaffar replied: “What we’re doing is exactly what we’ve done today, talking about it. There are simple things that we need to do and talking like we’ve talked today starts the process.”

After the event, we asked the Councillor how he would use the information gathered today. He replied: “we’re going through a process of reorganising the hate crime partnership and having an action plan focused on key activities that will help us eradicate hate crime. The contribution made by the children today will go into that particular piece of work that we’re doing, and when the hate crime plan is published, it will include some of the activities the young people said we need to include.”

He added that; “it’s important that people are aware of the services and the processes and systems that exist. The gap between the system, politicians, politics and the people is huge and when you get to young people, it’s far bigger. The only way we’re going to close that gap is by inviting young people and communities into the council house, informing the young and educating them and allowing them to participate in the process, and for me, today has also been about increasing the democratic participation of the community.”

When asked why Birmingham was the least affected by hate crime out of the all the cities in the UK, Zaffar explained:

“Birmingham is an incredible place, it’s a warm, friendly, tolerant community. In a city of 1.1 million people, we’ve got people that have come to Birmingham from over 180 counties and they very quickly feel at home. I also feel that if we stand still and don’t empower our kids and communities then, through the media, they listen to the Farages and Trumps of this world and we need to provide an alternative.”





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