- 02 Sep - 08 Sep, 2017
BRITISH GOVERNMENT TO TACKLE ONLINE HATE AND ABUSE
- 16 Sep - 22 Sep, 2017
- London Eye
Finally, the British government has decided to tackle online hate and abuse, something that needs to be addressed not just in Britain but the world over, not least in Pakistan where supporters of some political parties have acquired a reputation for intolerance that could push Attila the Hun to a distant second position.
The new policy of the British government covers mainly religious and racial hate, and hate based on disability and sexual orientation as these are the issues that mostly attract hate speech in this country. Political differences are not an issue here as they are in Pakistan.
The British government is moving in this direction because people are now spending an increasing amount of time on the internet and secondly because hate and abuse expressed online often encourages others of a similar ilk towards violence in the real world, resulting in lasting damage.
Official figures in this country show a 20 per cent rise in all forms of hate crime reported to the police in the first quarter of this year, which is a significant increase given that hate crime is usually heavily under-reported.
In order to make the new initiative work, two steps are being considered mainly. The first is the appointment of an Internet Ombudsman or Czar who will deal with complaints about hate crimes; but nothing will work unless companies providing social media platforms are brought into the loop and made to realise that they too have a responsibility in the matter. To that end, there are proposals for a levy on these companies to help pay for the policing of online offences. Similar proposals are being developed in France and Australia.
The biggest recent increase in hate crime in the UK generally, has obviously been hate crime against Muslims, particularly in the Manchester area – after the Manchester bombing of an arena holding a pop concert. A mosque in nearby Oldham was hit by a firebomb and a 14-year-old pupil at the Manchester Islamic High School for Girls was also targeted days after the arena attack when a passerby shouted: “When are you going to stop bombing people?”
The head teacher, Mona Mohamed, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that the teenager was “very upset and hurt” but the school advised her to keep quiet. She is reported to have said “That’s not the way we’re going to tackle terrorism. Terrorism is not part of Islam. We’re Muslim and to us Islam is peaceful.”
In the Bradford area, which has a heavy concentration of Pakistani immigrants, some Muslims have received anonymous letters threatening acid attacks which the police is taking ‘extremely seriously’. These are not Muslims who have a particularly prominent public image by virtue of being leading officials in the managing committee of mosques or are prominent in other Muslim activities. In one case, it is assumed that a family received such a letter because an elderly woman in the family who wears a burqa was probably followed home by the perpetrators.
In a separate initiative, Nottingham police has expanded its definition of hate crime to include uninvited advances towards a woman and unwanted verbal contact, including catcalling or wolf-whistling. Any behaviour targeted towards a woman simply because she is a woman will now come under this category. Nottinghamshire is the first police force to take up this initiative and special training has been given to selected officers to execute the programme.
With everyone going back to work after the summer recess – the Prime Minister having enjoyed a three week break which did not go unnoticed – it is time now for the serious business of Brexit to get into full swing with, in actual fact, just about a year left to thrash out a deal with Europe. At the moment, the British Brexit Secretary David Davis, has not been able to make much headway in the few meetings he has had with his European counterparts with the ball going nowhere as no agreement appears even remotely in sight over the issue of the divorce bill, without which no other issue is going to be discussed. It is not just a question of numbers, but the two sides appear to have vastly different views on the basis on which such a sum needs to be worked out. The former Prime Minister Tony Blair has suggested that if Britain tightens its immigration laws sufficiently, which is another way of saying that if the EU makes relaxations for the UK on the principle of free movement of goods and services, then most Brexiters may have second thought and there may not be a need for Brexit as the real reason why people voted for Brexit back in June last year would have been addressed. Of course, the EU will not be making any new moves till the German elections in a couple of weeks’ time and it is only after those elections that the pressure on the UK to get its act together would really increase. •
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