As a Christian convert and his family are compelled to move, the APPG for International Freedom of Religion or Belief has expressed its deep concern over the increase in incidents of crime in the UK on grounds of individuals’ perceived or actual beliefs.
On 9 November 2016, after years of targeting and even physical attack since appearing on a 2008 Dispatches documentary to talk about his conversion from Islam to Christianity, Nissar Hussein and his family moved, escorted by armed police, from their Bradford home after fears of further imminent attacks. The Husseins stated that the West Yorkshire Police had confirmed a credible threat to their being targeted and attacked again on the basis of Mr Hussein’s beliefs.
This incident, the APPG believes, typifies a trend of individuals targeted and, on rare occasions, killed for their beliefs in the UK and highlights a wider problem of integration of different individuals with different beliefs in UK communities. In March 2016, Asad Shah, an Ahmadi Muslim shopkeeper in Glasgow, was murdered by Tanveer Ahmed, who was allegedly motivated by hatred of Shah’s religious views. In London, attacks against Muslims have more than tripled since the Paris atrocities of November 2015.
According to Home Office statistics, during the 2015/2016 reporting period there have been 4,400 religious hate crimes, an increase of 34% from the previous year. The number of racially or religiously aggravated offences recorded by the police in July 2016 was 41% higher than in July 2015.
The APPG has urgently called upon Sarah Newton MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for issues including hate crime, and her team to address the root causes of such attacks in the UK and also address societal tension; in particular, to meet with colleagues in the Department of Education to review how and if freedom of religion or belief and the freedom to convert are taught to young people in the UK.
The APPG has also urged the Home Secretary and her team to redouble its efforts to ensure that international human rights standards of freedom of religion or belief codified in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are fully implemented and respected within the UK. It argues that this is of utmost importance, now more than ever, to prevent further escalation of religious and racially motivated targeting.