Shaista Aziz gives speech at Oxford City Council

Post Ref Racism works very closely with The Everyday Bigotry Project, headed by Shaista Aziz. Following her work with Thames Valley Police on a new hate crime campaign, Shaista was invited to speak at Oxford City Council’s meeting yesterday, where Cllr Tom Hayes put forward a motion to request a review of hate crime legislation from the Prime Minister. Shaista is working closely with Oxford City Council and Thames Valley Police to tackle hate crime in Oxford. You can read Shaista’s full speech, and Cllr Tom Hayes’ motion below.

 

My name is Shaista Aziz, I’m a proud Oxfordian and was born in the city and grew up here and attended nursery, primary and high school in the city. My family live in Oxford and my nieces and nephews attend local schools.

I’m a journalist, a former aid worker and a women’s rights and anti racism campaigner.

I’m the founder of the anti racism digital platform ‘The Everyday Bigotry Project’. We aim to create debate and disrupt narratives around bigotry. We are an advocacy project and work closely with another anti racism project – Post Ref Racism.

The Everyday Bigotry Project creates space to generate debate and discussions on how to tackle bigotry – one of our main focuses has been anti Muslim and racial hate crime, however we believe all forms of bigotry must be tackled and in order to do this we must understand the intersection – the connections – between racism, misogyny, homophobia, disability, and classism.

Increasingly we are working on issues around gendered Islamophobia.

I have been working in schools in London to debate issues around racism and bigotry in schools with pupils of different ages.

I’ve conducted media training workshops for British Muslim women so they feel more comfortable to do media interviews and tell their stories, one of our key areas of work is to challenge narratives around bigotry which have been created and amplified by a number of media organisations and also by sections of social media users and sadly, our elected officials.

Over the past year I have moved back to Oxford following my work with international aid organisations and working in numerous international contexts across the world.

I have always known that despite my work taking me across the world, Oxford is my home and where my roots are and where my family, friends, and wider community are.

Sadly, like many visible minorities in our city and county I have been subjected to a number of hate crimes over the past three years, each of these racial and anti Muslim hate crimes have been reported to the police, here in Oxford and London.

The incidents have included a man shouting racist abuse at me before driving his car at speed towards me in London, a man racially abusing me at a bus stop in Headington and then lurching to punch me, and most recently, in June, my mum and I were subjected to racial abuse and intimidating behavior by a man in the center of Oxford.

Again, this incident was reported to the police who continue to investigate the incident.

Racism has a devastating and visceral impact. It can make individuals lose self-confidence, fear further attacks, and retreat into themselves. It makes you question why your humanity, life, and dignity are of no worth to those who chose to target you with hate.

As I have said bigotry intersects, misogyny and Islamophobia is connected – my visibility as a woman, in the very public work I do and my visibility in places where bigots do not expect to see me, my confidence – it acts as a trigger to these individuals, in my experience they have always been men. Islamophbia is increasingly gendered and it is designed to push women back into their homes and to make women feel scared.

The toxic political and public discourse in our country especially in the run up to the Brexit vote has created an atmosphere where open and brazen racism is again visible and present on the streets of our country.

As an anti racism campaigner and a journalist I am hearing more and more testimonies from individuals- especially women impacted by hate crimes.  

A few weeks ago I organised and chaired a meeting for Muslim women in our city to hold a discussion with representatives from Thames Valley Police to discuss their lived experiences of unreported hate crimes.

One woman of Pakistani heritage said she no longer felt safe to take her granddaughter to the park alone. Another woman spoke about how in the past year she has been racially abused while walking. She said this had not happened to her in the previous six years of living in Oxford.

I have also kickstarted an idea now being carried forward by Oxford City Council to put up posters in our city asking the public to report hate crime.

It is important for us as a city to send a clear message – we are a city that has a zero tolerance policy towards hate and all forms of bigotry. This is especially important because we are an international city with links across the globe.

We must not be complacent is understanding why we need to publicly and vocally advocate for creating a city where everyone feels safe, respected and valued.

I would like to thank Cllr Ed Turner, Cllr Tom Hayes and Cllr Jamila Azad for all their support.

 

Motion to Tackle Hate Crime

Proposed by Councillor Hayes

Labour member motion

We all have the right to be treated without discrimination. Council is gravely concerned with reports of a significant increase in racially motivated crimes in Oxford, and across the country, in the year since the referendum vote to leave the European Union. Regardless of how anyone voted in that referendum, all acts of hatred are unacceptable. Council takes pride in Oxford’s diversity and community cohesion and condemns all acts of racism, xenophobia, and homophobia.

The overwhelming response of Oxford’s citizens to these events has been to condemn them. Communities across Oxford have joined together to stress our common values of tolerance and unity.

This Council is committed to working with all our partners to challenge prejudice and intimidation, and will always take incidents of hate crime extremely seriously. We are also committed to ensuring that every person living and working in Oxford can feel that they are valued members of the community. Our city welcomes people from all over the world, in particular those EU nationals who are concerned about their rights and futures in the face of the British Government’s drive to a hard Brexit.

Council notes with concern that the longest prison sentence that a court can give for homophobic, transphobic or disability common assault is six months. This prison sentence length is a quarter of the two-year maximum for race and faith common assault. Council regrets that some groups should be seen as more worthy of protection than others, and is concerned that a hierarchy of hate crime undermines may victim confidence in the law.

Council urges everybody to report hate crime to the police if they experience or witness it. Reporting hate crime when it happens will help to stop it happening to somebody else. Without knowing that hate crime has been taking place, the police and other bodies cannot help to keep our communities safe. Reporting hate crime helps the police and those bodies to have a clear picture of the level of hate crime in Oxford and make the right decisions to stop it happening again.

This Council asks the Leader of Oxford City Council:

1.    to write to the Prime Minister with a request for an independent review of hate crime legislation, including measures to tackle online hatred and abuse.

2.    to invite the Police and Crime Commissioner for the Thames Valley region to personally update Oxford City councillors on the practical measures that are being taken to fight hate crime, including overcoming possible barriers to reporting hate crime.

3.    to also make this update available to the public.

This Council asks the City Executive Board:

1.    to work with local organisations to raise awareness of hate crime and how to report it, starting this year.

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