19 September 2017

Anti-Muslim Posters Are Just Plain Wrong and We Shouldn’t Ignore Their Impact

They also achieve absolutely nothing.

Two weeks ago, press in Worcester reported on posters, using stylised Arabic font, linking the local Muslim community with ‘grooming gangs’. The article explained that the West Mercia Police had decided to treat the incident as a hate crime.

Predictably, opinion on the article was divided. For many people, including anti-hate charities, it was a welcome decision; they argued that the posters gave the impression that all Muslim men were sex offenders when they actually vary in terms of ethnicity and religious beliefs.

On the other side of the argument, we had some members of the far right. They were confused by the police’s decision to investigate the posters as a hate crime. One prominent far-right commentator said on Twitter: “How are these posters a hate crime?”

Who was right here? We took a look at the official definition of a hate crime. According to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) – the people who decide if someone will be prosecuted for an alleged crime – a hate crime is an incident that “is based on someone’s prejudice towards anyone because of their race, religion, sexual orientation, disability or because they are transgender”. So, the CPS’ decision was based on the fact that Arabic font was used on the posters – because it gives the impression that sex offenders are predominantly Muslims.

Credit: Steve Rose/Facebook

There is no doubt that these types of hate crimes are on the rise in the UK. Last week, Metro reported on neo-Nazi stickers which were stuck on lampposts in London. They featured the phrase ‘GOOD NIGHT LEFT SIDE’ (an inversion of the anti-racist slogan ‘Good Night White Pride’) and depicted an image of the type of car used to plough into anti-racism activists in the recent Charlottesville attack.

The Yorkshire Post ran a piece about Muslims in Bradford last month who had complained to the police after receiving offensive publications through their letterboxes. The letters, which were titled ‘Kill Scum Muslims’, contained horrific threats. They said: “We are now going to do acid attacks on anyone who wears the funny black masks around your square & Bradford & other places.”

Two months ago, The London Economic reported on a situation where a black woman, returning home after a day out in Devon, found a note on her car which declared the area a ‘Whites Only Zone’. The Express wrote about similar stickers stuck on lampposts in Oxfordshire late last year; the Sun spoke about ones in Glasgow a few months previously. All of these occurrences were investigated by the police as hate crimes.

Whether you agree or disagree that these types of incidents should constitute a hate crime, one thing you must agree with is that – other than perpetuating an ugly cycle of mistrust, division and violent behaviour – they achieve absolutely nothing. Wherever we fall on the political spectrum, we all need to take a strong and uncompromising stand against publications (whether it be a poster, letter, blog, leaflet, or whatever) that merely seek to demonise a particular social group, foster suspicion or sanction violence of any kind.

Featured image credit: Worcester News/Facebook

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