Combating Religious Hatred in Brighton
Representatives of Jewish, Muslim, Anglican, Catholic and Coptic faith groups have united to establish a Combatting Faith Hate Partnership to tackle the huge rise in religiously motivated hate crime in the city.
Commenting on the launch of the project, the chair of BHFA trustees, Rik Child, said: “This project was proposed after shocking official figures published last year showing recorded religiously motivated hate crime has soared by 1,000% since 2013. The latest figures show 32% relate to Antisemitism and 49% to Islamophobia.”
Rik continued: “We are really pleased to have formed a partnership with the major faith groups in the city and have put together a three part plan to increase religious tolerance. We are looking for members of the public, from all faiths and none, to join our faith tour later in the year so please do get in touch with our project coordinator Lev@bhfa.org.uk if you’re interested in joining.”
The Partnership, which is funded by Brighton and Hove City Council, was formerly launched at a signing ceremony at the April meeting of the City’s Faith Council (see photo) where the three parts of the project were outlined:
- Faith panel engaging with education institutions (schools, colleges and universities) - where a panel of Christian, Jewish and Muslim faith leaders discuss the importance of religious tolerance and mutual respect with students and young people.
- An adult 'faith tour' of local faith groups - Open to people of all faiths and none, the tour group would visit a different Mosque, Synagogue or Church for about six weeks. Participants from the group will record their reflections in an online blog. The hope is this tour will dispel any myths and 'normalise' different faiths for people, thereby increasing religious tolerance.
- A ‘stand together’ committee - where senior faith leaders meet and break bread together to discuss any instances of external persecution of their own community, or any concerns with internal radicalisation. These private meetings will be a safe forum where leaders of different faiths can support one another in their attempts to tackle religious prejudice or radicalisation.
Fiona Sharpe of the Sussex Jewish Representative Council, said: “In these times of increasing racial and religious intolerance, I am proud to be part of this initiative, bringing together people of faith to support one another within our City of Sanctuary. It is particularly important that we are outward facing and I am pleased that a major part of the work we will be undertaking is to go out into schools and colleges to further educate young people about Islam and Judaism. Religious intolerance is caused, in large part, by fear and lack of knowledge. We will try to address both of those issues”
Tariq Jung, Chair of Brighton and Hove Muslim Forum, said: “We have said before this must be a joint effort – with all faith groups working together – so we’re very pleased to be part of a partnership that includes our friends in the Christian and Jewish communities. We are determined to tackle all forms of religious hatred we see in Brighton together, especially Antisemitism and Islamophobia.”
The Picture shows CFHP partners (front row from left to right) The Revd Dr Canon Andrew Wingate OBE - Anglican diocese, Catherine Martindale – Arundel & Brighton Catholic Diocese, Rik Child – BHFA Chair, Amgad Mechaeil – Coptic Orthodox Church, Fiona Sharpe – Sussex Jewish Representative Council, Sabri BenAmeur – Brighton and Hove Muslim Forum. Members of the Faith Council fill the second row.
The government is concerned about the increase in successful terror attacks in Britain and the consequences these attacks have on the Muslim population. The fear is that as ISIS is defeated on the battlefield in Syria, the surviving fighters enter Europe to continue the war and Islamophobia increases, far right parties become more popular and society unravels.
Stephen Lloyd, the MP for Eastbourne, spoke at the Brighton and Hove Muslim Forum event last October and warned that the fear of Muslims is no longer at the edges of society, but has entered the mainstream. This appears to be matched by recent survey data. Hope Not Hate produced a report last August showing that “52% of Brits believe Islam 'poses a threat to the West' and as a result of recent terror attacks, 42% are 'more suspicious' of Muslims”.
Community Security Trust (CST) recorded 1,382 antisemitic incidents in 2017, the highest annual total CST has ever recorded. In March, anti-Semitic graffiti was found at Sussex University shortly after it hosted Israel Apartheid Week events. During a fringe meeting at the most recent Labour conference in Brighton, questions were asked over the historical accuracy of the Holocaust and whether Jewish groups should be affiliated with the party. This provoked a response from the leader of the Council who spoke out, warning his party that unless antisemitism was eradicated, the conference would not be welcomed back to the city.
The BHFA is a multi-faith charity that supports faith groups who deliver social welfare and community development projects. 105 of the approximate 140 faith groups in the city have membership with the BHFA, and are drawn from 10 different faith traditions. The BHFA was registered as a charity in 2016 and has six trustees drawn from Christian and Muslim traditions. In 2017 the BHFA was awarded the contract to run the city’s Faith Partnership which was later rebranded into the Faith Council. The Faith Council meets every two months and discusses collaborative working on faith led social welfare and community development projects.