Shouts of ‘Terrorist’ and ‘Osama Bin Laden’ on the way into an Eid party. Being chased out of a park crying because a man thinks the way you dress is a danger to children. Both racism. Both to Muslim women. Neither reported to the police.
Catrin Nye of BBC Asian Network has been investigating after a charity set up to offer the women support claimed hundreds of racist crimes against Muslim women in Scotland are going unreported.
Amina is a Scottish helpline for the country’s Muslim females.
Workers take around five to six calls a day, sometimes for hours at a time, and they say approximately half the women who call will have suffered hate crime of some sort. Of those, only one in four will go to the police.
One reason given is that the women feel an incident is too trivial, or don’t feel the police could actually do anything about it.
The helpline says it is recording a worrying number of callers who are accustomed to the racism and pass it off as part of life.
“Generally speaking the women will be like ‘Oh it’s ok, I don’t want to report it because it’s not a big deal, everyone faces that, my Asian neighbour’s also had that,” Samina Ansari, Amina’s helpline development officer, said.
“It’s become the norm that ‘Oh it’s not a huge crime, I’ll just put up with it.’
“But really you can get quite severe incidents where it affects people’s mental health.
“Just in terms in socialising or going out, people stop doing all these things.”
Samina Ansari Amina
Shamala Shaukat lives in Glasgow with her husband and children. She would describe herself as half Pakistani and half Scottish.
Shamala spoke to the BBC Asian Network dressed in full Muslim clothing. She wears the Hijab and, when outside female company, the Niqab, meaning her face is covered.
She says this is the source of the racist abuse she suffers at least once a week. A recent incident in a Glasgow park was more severe than most.
“Take that thing off, that’s not effing on.” Wiping away tears Shamala describes how the man approached her, her children and the children she was looking after.
“Look there’s (sic) kids in the park and you’re scaring them” he said.
“You shouldn’t be here, where are you effing from?”
She explained further: “He started this absolute tirade and he followed us around screaming abuse the whole time.
“Saying, ‘Are you British? Don’t tell me you’re British. If you’re from Afghanistan you should all have been shot. If you’re from Baghdad you should have been bombed.'”
Shamala said possibly the worst element was that when she arrived home in tears she felt she had to apologise to the parents of the children she had in her care.
She said: “I was in front of my children, and I had other people’s children that because of me had been abused.”
Despite all this she has not yet reported it to police and is wary of doing so.
“One part of me thinks if you reported every incident it would be good, [the police] would have bigger statistics.
“On the other hand if I reported every incident and still nothing happened, that would be very much more detrimental to how I felt about the police and how I felt about the people around me.”
“If I tell people the kind of abuse I get they always say, ‘Oh just ignore it’.”
But it is ‘ignoring it’ that concerns both Amina and police forces in Scotland.
The helpline offers a third party reporting service so that women do not have to speak to the police directly but forces are still urging people to come forward with crimes and make sure their statistics are accurate.
Ch Insp Jane Black, of the Equality and Diversity unit at Strathclyde Police, said nobody should have to put up with such treatment.
“I strongly urge individuals to report any matters,” she said.
“If they have been assaulted or verbally abused and they believe it’s because of their race or religion then that’s sufficient for us.
“If it does indeed result in increasing crime figures, that’s a positive for us, and ultimately we can then work with partners to try and eradicate it at source.”
For Amina what is crucial is that generationally, things are changing in Scotland, as with the rest of the UK.
Asians living in Scotland, including those of Pakistani heritage like Samina and Shamala are now third, fourth and fifth generation, born and raised there.
Amina said: “They need to do it (report racist crimes) to show that this is unacceptable. Older generations, they were more inclined to sort of sign it off.
“Should anything happen you need to report it because it’s not acceptable, and if you’re not doing it for yourself, do it for your family. Do it for your kids.”
You can hear Catrin’s report at 1230 and 1800 BST on Friday on the BBC Asian Network live from Edinburgh on DAB digital radio, Digital TV (Sky 0119, Freeview 709, Virgin Media 912) or online via the BBC iPlayer.
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