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  1. ITV Report

Dramatic rise in hate crime after terror attacks and Brexit

Muslim women attend a parenting class, but many have been victims of Islamophobia. Photo: ITV News

New figures have revealed a dramatic rise in the number of religious and racial hate crimes across the region, in the wake of recent terror attacks and the vote to leave the European Union.

One Muslim woman from Bristol told ITV News that she was spat at in the street, while another described how she was told to return to her country. Incidents, which they said, are becoming increasingly common.

Huma Sheik, who attends a mosque in Easton, said "I was just crossing the road when someone in a car shouted 'get back to your country!' and it just froze me for a second. It took me time to overcome. It felt like everyone was looking at me".

Huma explained that when Britain voted to leave the EU her children asked if that meant they had to leave the country.

Despite her experiences, Huma Sheik has plenty of praise for Bristol. Credit: ITV News
62%
Rise in religious hate crimes since 2016
15%
Rise in racial hate crimes since 2016
132
Number of racial hate crime cases in Bristol this year

A victim of racial hate crime who lives in Hartcliffe said the problem is getting worse. Avril Marshall has now started her own support group to help others cope with levels of verbal abuse.

"Hate crime hits you in your core. It messes around in your head. It affects your mental health. It makes you feel numb. It makes you feel like a nothing", she said.

Avril wants perpetrators to be dealt with properly, and she is backed by a number of local charities who are calling on more to done. Stand Against Racism & Inquality (SARI) wants to see a "zero tolerance" approach to hate crime, and is urging communities to make their own stand.

It's a thought echoed by Avon and Somerset's Police and Crime Commissioner Sue Mountstevens. She points out there will never be enough police officers on every street corner, so society must make a statement.

"When you're sitting next to someone who is being shouted out, we all have to stand up and say this is not going to happen on our watch."

Police search for evidence after a mosque in Totterdown was vandalised in 2016. Credit: ITV News

However in Bristol's Muslim community there is optimism.

The chair for the Council of Bristol Mosques, Arif Khan, points to an incident in 2016 when bacon sandwiches were thrown at a mosque in Totterdown. When four people were convicted the judge commented "this was not a particular attack on a mosque, but it's as if the whole of England has been attacked."

Mr Khan says as long as this unity is upheld across the region, then there is plenty of hope for a more tolerant world.

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