A year on from Brexit: How do we tackle hate crime and bigotry?

Next Thursday 29th of June, Post Ref Racism and The Everyday Bigotry Project will host a panel debate: “A year on from Brexit: How do we tackle hate crime and bigotry?”.

Tickets ; Facebook Event


The Topic

A year has passed since the UK voted to leave the European Union, and the political landscape has changed dramatically. A tumultuous snap election has left us with a fragile government; the country has witnessed four terrorist attacks in as many months.

On our streets, hate crime has increased since Brexit, and police forces across the country are reporting spikes since the recent terrorist attacks.

So what should we do? 

What measures should policy-makers be considering? How might this change should a minority government collapse? What work should we be doing at the community level? What role should the media be playing? Is the increase in hate crime and bigotry related to the rise of the far-right?

The Speakers

Nesrine Malik – Writer and Columnist for The Guardian.


Dr Aaron Winter – Senior Lecturer in Criminology at University of East London. Expert on organised racism, right-wing extremism and terrorism.

Aaron Winter is Senior Lecturer in Criminology at University of East London. At UEL, he is a member of the Terrorism and Extremism Research Centre (TERC), Centre for Human Rights in Conflict (CHRC) and Centre for Migration, Refugees and Belonging (CMRB). Prior to UEL, he taught at Abertay University, the University of Sussex and the University of Brighton. His research is on organised racism, right-wing extremism and terrorism. He is co-editor of Discourses and Practices of Terrorism: Interrogating Terror (Routledge, Critical Terrorism Studies, 2010) and Reflexivity in Criminological Research Experiences with the Powerful and the Powerless (Palgrave, 2014). He is currently part of the ESRC project Racism and Political Mobilisation and London Scholars project Step Up To Stop Hate, and co-editing the Manchester University Press series Racism, Resistance and Social Change (with Satnam Virdee and John Solomos). His latest article (co-authored with Aurelien Mondon) is ‘Articulations of Islamophobia: From the Extreme to the Mainstream’ in Ethnic and Racial Studies. He is also a Trustee of the British Sociological Association (BSA) and on the editorial board of the journal Sociological Research Online. 


Liz Feteke – Director of the Institute of Race Relations

Liz Feteke is Director of the Institute of Race Relations and head of its European Research Programme. She has worked at the IRR since 1982. She writes and speaks extensively on aspects of contemporary racism and fascism, refugee rights, EU counter-radicalisation and anti-terrorism policies  and Islamophobia across Europe, and is author of A suitable enemy: racism, migration and Islamophobia in Europe published by Pluto Press.  Liz was part of the CARF Collective, and an expert witness at the Basso Permanent People’s Tribunal on asylum and the World Tribunal on Iraq. She is currently an associate of the International State Crime Initiative at Queen Mary University of London, and the Border Crossing Observatory at Monash University, Australia. 


Magda Fabianczyk – Visual Artist, and Polish women’s rights activist

Magda Fabianczyk is an artist and member of Dziewuchy Dziewuchom London – a group of Polish activists that formed in April 2016 in response to the Polish government’s plans to introduce a complete ban on abortion in Poland. She is currently teaching at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design. She incorporates the narrative mediation process into her educational and art projects, which explore notions of conflict and otherness. She recently spoke at WOW Festival at Southbank Centre, where she also curated ‘Five Nation Film’ for the Alchemy Festival in 2015. Her work includes EU funded collaborative projects for Banglanatak NGO in India (2010), self-funded initiatives on the Leopold Estate in London (2011 – 2012), projects developed with the Roma population of Bytom Bobrek (2010) and Chechnyan refugees in Lublin, Poland (2011). Exhibitions include Kochi-Muziris Biennale (India); Colombo Biennale (Sri Lanka);Trafo, Bunkier Sztuki, Silesian Museum and Kronika CCA (Poland); DOCVA Centre for Visual Arts (Italy); Alliance Française (Ghana); VASL – Triangle Arts Trust’s Network (Pakistan); C. Rockefeller CCA (Germany); John Johns and Folkestone Fringe (UK).


Catherine West MP – Member of Parliament for Hornsey and Wood Green

Catherine West is Member of Parliament for Hornsey & Wood Green and a Shadow Foreign Office Minister. Before becoming an MP she was Leader of Islington Council, Chair of London Councils’ Transport & Environment Committee and a member of the LGA Finance Panel. In 2013 she was awarded the ‘Local Authority Leader of the Year’ award by the Local Government Information Unit for her work leading the Islington Fairness Commission. Catherine speaks five languages and holds a degree in Social Science and Languages and a Masters Degree in Chinese Studies from the School of Oriental and African Studies.

Why does it take a tragedy like Finsbury Park for us to recognise white-national extremism?

It’s taken a van plowing through a crowd of Muslim worshippers for us to recognise white-national extremism as a form of terror. In this particular case – there could be no denying it; the method of attack was just too similar to London Bridge and Westminster.

But despite the blatant nature and motive of this attack, we fail to acknowledge the epidemic of white-national extremism that is creating hundreds of “lone-wolf perpetrators” across the country every day.

Most recent publicly available hate crime statistics suggest that around 200 hate crimes are reported to the police everyday in England and Wales. That’s 200 perpetrators every day that have committed an act of hate.

And these acts are not trivial. Less than a month ago a pregnant Muslim women was kicked in the stomach causing the miscarriage of her baby. At least three fires have been started at mosques in the last two months. And let’s not forget teen-refugee Reker Ahmed who was almost killed by a mob in Croydon. “Lesser attacks” – such as ripping off women’s hijabs, threatening physical assault, vandalism, and verbal abuse – are taking place as standard at a horrifying frequency.

The consistent attacks made by white-national extremists are different to those made by IS. ISIS’ attacks burst forth into our lives and discourse in an acute fashion – for most of us the propaganda and culture surrounding ISIS recruitment is not something we see at all. Indeed, we can count the number of IS perpetrators that have succeeded to carry out an attack in the last year on our fingers and toes.

By contrast, white national extremism is a chronic, constantly visible, and increasingly endemic problem. We would need 7300 people’s fingers and toes to count the number of perpetrators of hate crime this year. Granted, we do not know how many of those perpetrators subscribe to a white-national-extremist ideology, but even if it was only half that’s still an incredible 3650 individual perpetrators a year. The recruitment of individuals into white-national extremist ideology is far, far, more widespread than radicalisation by IS.

And this radicalisation is normalised.

Headlines in the Daily Mail such as the “and then they came for our children” front-pager after the Manchester arena attack are akin to the “Western infidels slay innocent women and children” headlines found in ISIS propaganda. Tabloids like the Daily Mail, The Sun, and The Express are propaganda machines for white-national extremism.

We continue to tolerate racist beliefs and give platform to white-nationalists. Tommy Robinson of the EDL is alive and kicking, touring the UK spouting his hate; and Paul Nuttall was able to blame Islam for IS terrorism on prime time TV during the election debates. White-national extremists are given a far greater platform than we would ever allow radical Islamic extremists. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen an extreme-Islamic commentator on the news, or quoted in a media story. Why isn’t the same true for the far-right?

Even our Prime Minister is spouting rhetoric that empowers white-national extremists – her very campaign slogan: “strong, stable leadership in the national interest” speaks directly to that. May’s recent speeches have demonised immigrants and blamed Muslim communities for “tolerating” Islamic extremism. Conversely, she didn’t make a single comment about the reprisal hate crimes that followed the London Bridge and Manchester Arena attacks.

In some ways, we should be angrier about the attack at Finsbury Park than any of the other terrorist incidents this year. Why? Because this attack was so much more preventable. It was well within our power to stop this attack. We, as the UK, have direct control over every mechanism of radicalisation that creates white-national extremists like the Finsbury Park van driver. Every part of this chain of radicalisation is occurring on UK soil, and in our public domain. We have the right to be angry, because these truly are “home-grown” terrorists.

The government fails to get its act together – its action plan to tackle hate crime is a plan in name only. It does nothing to counteract the extreme ideology underlying these acts of hate, instead treating hate crime as a problem of “law and order” committed by an “exceptional thuggish few”.

The lack of freely available statistics on hate crime is also telling. Where police stats on other crimes of interest are released on a quarterly basis, hate crime stats are only released annually by the Home Office – the most recent figures released in March 2016. The National Police Chief’s Council began publishing hate crime stats in the weeks following the referendum, but this was stopped at the end of August 2016. Data on hate crime is collected but not shared with the public. This speaks volumes to the government’s priorities.

There can now be no excuse, and no delay, in laying out a clear plan to tackle far-right extremism. We need to conduct a formal investigation into the mechanisms of radicalisation, regulate hate speech in our national press, and stop giving platform to white-national extremists. This is how we do right by the ethnic minority communities in the UK. This is how we ensure justice for the victims of Finsbury Park.


By Karissa Singh, Founder of Post Ref Racism

@KarissaSingh; @PostRefRacism

Post Ref Racism’s Report on Post-Brexit Racism and Xenophobia

Check out Post Ref Racism’s Post Referendum Racism and Xenophobia Report