The Community Security Trust (CST), which monitors and combats antisemitism in the UK, and Tell MAMA, which does the same for anti-Muslim hatred, collaborated on a resource for victims of hate crimes to navigate the legal system and to understand their rights and the different outcomes of reporting an attack.
The booklet they produced, Hate Crime: A guide for those affected, is distributed in police stations to any victims of hate crimes – not just Muslims or Jews.
While civil societies are grappling with initiatives to tackle anti-Muslim hate crime, many NGOs have turned to the Jewish organisation, the Community Security Trust (CST), for advice in tackling hate crime.
The organisation has a strong reputation for professionalism, both in robustly recording incidents as well as providing support to victims.
It can trace its roots to the 43 group, an English anti-fascist group set up by Jewish ex-servicemen after World War II, plus the 62 group which followed it. Essentially it was made up of a coalition of Jewish anti-fascists in London.
Dave Rich, the Head of Policy for the CST, says:
“People involved with these groups began to realise this [defence] needed to happen on a more permanent basis. For the Jewish community to have self-defence structures in the long term, it needed to be more formal, legal and respectable.”
The Community Security Organisation was created in the mid 1980s and in 1994 was granted charitable status, becoming the CST. Today it provides security advice and training for Jewish schools and synagogues, and gives assistance to those affected by antisemitism. It also advises on security and publishes reports on terrorism attacks against Jewish communities across the world.
One of the Muslim-run organisations which has benefitted from the CST’s advice and support is Tell MAMA, founded in 2012 and partly modelled on the CST’s template.
It was created to ensure people could access support quickly and easily if targeted by anti-Muslim hatred. It also produces reports based on the incidents it documents and – like the CST – lobbies authorities to take note and act on problems.
Fiyaz Mughal, Tell MAMA’s founder, says it has tackled Islamophobia by working in partnership with organisations that tackled other forms of hate – and not treating it as a distinct issue.
“One of the failures of some groups tackling Islamophobia is they make it so unique and distinctive and work on it on their own,” he says.
“It can be difficult and confusing for victims of hate crimes to report them to the police and go through the whole process with the courts,” says Dave Rich.
Dave says the idea to create a resource for victims of hate crimes came from the fact that many of the people who reported antisemitic attacks to the CST were not very educated on what rights they had, what different laws might apply to them, and the different outcomes in reporting the attack.
Together the CST and Tell MAMA decided to create a booklet Hate Crime: A guide for those affected.
Dave says it was clear from the start that the information in the booklet should not be limited to antisemitic attacks.
“The legislation on religious hate crimes that cover antisemitism and Islamophobia is largely the same – there’s only a few differences on incitement – whereas homophobia and other hate crimes can be a bit different. So it made sense to focus on these two strands. Of course, a lot in the booklet would apply for other communities as well,” he says.
The CST has built a strong relationship with its Muslim counterpart over the years and this helped in collaborating on the booklet.
Dave says that the CST has worked hard in building relationships with many other organisations combating hate crime across the UK too, such as Gallop (the LGBT+ anti-violence charity) and Stonewall (which campaigns on behalf of LGBT+ people).
To write the booklet, the CST used the experiences of victims reporting antisemitism as a starting point. Its communications and incidence teams focused on what victims often didn’t know or wanted to know.
One of the main goals of the booklet was keeping it simple enough to use without minimising the complexities of the legal system.
“The law can be quite complicated and if you oversimplify it too much end up giving people wrong information,” says Dave.
The CST reached out to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), which controls criminal prosecutions in England and Wales, and found it very keen to help. CPS teams proofread an early draft of the booklet and advised on the different sections, as well as wording information on different legislation and what should or should not be included.
The booklet is useful to those willing to report hate crime. Getting victims to step forward and report an incident remains a major challenge for organisations dealing with hate.
“Some people feel that they won’t be taken seriously, or that the police won’t investigate properly, or that the CPS won’t prosecute. Others don’t want to go through the criminal justice process because they find it daunting,” says Dave.
In response, the CST has increased its victim advocacy work and has focused on promoting successful prosecutions to boost victims’ confidence in the police.
It has also promoted restorative justice, which ‘personalises’ a crime by having the victims and offenders mediate a restitution agreement to the satisfaction of each, as well as involving the community.
Tell MAMA has also faced difficulties in working with groups tackling other forms of hatred.
Iman Abou Atta, Tell MAMA’s current director, says the organisation has been targeted by far-right extremists, and also by Islamist groups, because of its work with LGBT+, Jewish and other groups. Tell MAMA takes a non-religious, human rights-based approach to combating hate crime and this has pushed some to undermine the efforts of the project, according to Iman.
One complication has been the complexity of the three million-strong community of Muslims in the UK.
Reaching out to the different denominations and different factions has been difficult.
Fiyaz says: “You had some groups that were territorial, as if they thought this was their space. They talked a lot about Islamophobia but, practically, did very little on the ground.”
Another complication to encouraging victims to step forward has been the rise in hate across social media platforms, which is often written off as “trolling” or sometimes seen as a victimless crime – which it is not.
“It has also brought the challenge of working with social media companies to encourage and cajole them to improve their rules on removing hate content and make it easier for people to report to them,” says Dave.
Despite a slow start, social media companies under pressure from governments and civil societies have promised to do more in combating hate online.
The CPS has been very useful in sharing copies of the joint booklet and offering it to victims in its offices. Anyone who reports a hate crime to the CST receives an online copy, too, and the organisation plans to offer them in courtrooms soon.
While the impact of the booklet has not been measured yet, Dave says the CST is constantly being asked for more copies and both organisations are working together to disseminate it.
“Maybe five years ago it was uncommon for organisations from different communities to work on hate crimes so closely together, but that is changing. I hope our work with Tell MAMA contributes towards building good relations between the two communities,” he says.
While NGOs often ask for the CST’s advice, Dave says it has also learnt much from organisations that may not have been operating for a long time, but which have fresh ideas and a fresh approach.
Fiyaz says one of the best things happening in the UK to combat hate is seeing a wide range of different members of the Muslim community and the role they play to help the wider society.
“If you show a Muslim policeman just walking the beat, if you show a doctor in the NHS that happens to be a Muslim. It breaks down some of the ‘them’ and ‘us’ mentality,” he says.
The founder of Tell MAMA says that on another level, education, engagement and dialogue all challenge stereotypes and help combat hate crime.
“Five years ago, some newspapers were denying that Islamophobia was a real issue. But today, with all the petitions, research, campaigning and school-based work, we don’t have any newspapers which now really suggest Islamophobia is inexistent,” he says.