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Hate Crimes Against Muslim Women

Volume 838: debated on Monday 20 May 2024


Asked by

To ask His Majesty’s Government how they plan to reduce hate crimes against Muslim women and to what extent their plans involve engaging with diverse Muslim women’s groups across the country.

My Lords, in begging leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper, I draw attention to my interests as set out in the register, particularly as the CEO of Muslim Women’s Network UK.

My Lords, anti-Muslim hatred is abhorrent and has no place in our society. From ensuring the safety of worshippers and working with the police to supporting victims, we will continue to take swift action to address anti-Muslim hatred, and this includes safeguarding Muslim women. We are committed to tackling anti-Muslim hatred through a co-ordinated cross-departmental effort. To this end, we will provide £117.6 million to protect mosques and Muslim faith schools across the country until 2028.

I thank the Minister for meeting me last week, when I shared concerns about Tell MAMA, in that Muslim communities do not have trust and confidence in Tell MAMA. I have written a letter to the Government with 31 questions about Tell MAMA, and the Government have not answered them. When will the Government answer my questions in full, and when will Tell MAMA’s data be made available in full? When will Tell MAMA’s poor governance and the quality of its work be assessed? When will its funding be reviewed? It gets around £1 million a year, and no one knows what it does with this money. Why the lack of transparency when it comes to Tell MAMA?

We have funded Tell MAMA since 2012 to monitor and support victims of anti-Muslim hatred. Tell MAMA is subject to internal grant funding review processes and due diligence checks. This is the case for all funded partners’ processes before any funding agreement can be processed annually. Therefore, Tell MAMA engages regularly with DLUHC officials monitoring its progress. Relationships with all government-funded partners are kept under constant review, and we will ensure that concerns around any governance or accounting matters are considered. Given that many of the noble Baroness’s 31 questions raise such concerns, it would not be appropriate for me to comment specifically at this time, but I will revert to her privately.

My Lords, British Muslim women have borne the brunt of the sharp rise in anti-Muslim hate crimes, as the noble Baroness has mentioned, but there are well-established women’s groups that have been at the forefront of providing follow-up support for many who do not feel able to report some of these crimes to the police or even to other groups, including those mentioned today. Have there been any reviews or evaluations, particularly of Prevent funds that could be redirected to Muslim women’s groups and organisations that have years of experience in providing support and education for women and their families?

I assure the noble Baroness that there is extensive engagement to understand the issues affecting British Muslims, including Muslim women. Only last week the noble Baroness, Lady Scott, met a small group of community stakeholders, including Muslim women, specifically to discuss community cohesion and hate crime.

My Lords, it pains me to stand up on this Question, particularly when we are talking about an organisation that should be dealing with monitoring anti-Muslim hatred. I am grateful to my friend, the noble Baroness, Lady Gohir, for giving me sight of her Question and of the letter she sent to my noble friend’s department. To some extent I bear responsibility, as I was there when the organisation was set up. There are deep concerns about its finances, governance, associations and connections, including with the now-defunct Quilliam Foundation—which has associations with think tanks in the United States that are peddling anti-Muslim hatred and Islamophobia—and with people whom successive Home Secretaries have excluded from the United Kingdom. These are really serious allegations about an organisation that is there to protect Muslims in the United Kingdom. I urge my noble friend to look at these matters seriously. It is important that organisations funded by the Government to protect British nationals of whatever faith have the confidence of the communities they seek to protect.

I can assure the noble Baroness, and all the speakers so far, that I have taken up this matter since I came into this position. The department is being asked to investigate and look at all the matters raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Gohir, and others.

My Lords, notwithstanding the concerns raised by the noble Baronesses, Lady Gohir and Lady Warsi, I am also aware of many of the allegations in their questions. I have worked with Muslim women for subsequent Governments for at least 26 years, while I have been in the House and long before. What assurance can British Muslim women take from a prolonged absence of any meaningful engagement or action to address their experiences of discrimination inside, outside, at work and within the institutions that serve them?

With regard to the comments the Minister made about the amount of money available, there is an incredible disconnect between what she said and the experiences of women’s organisations up and down the country.

I would like to reassure the House that we have conducted extensive engagement over the last year in particular. The DLUHC Secretary of State hosted a round table with Muslim experts in late 2023 to hear of their experiences and feedback. Ministers have also conducted visits to a broad range of community groups to increase understanding and to see the valuable work that many Muslim community groups are doing. We are engaged in these matters, and this is one of many things we are doing to try to combat some of the issues that Muslim women in particular are facing.

My Lords, as the shadow Faith Minister, I hear increasing reports when I meet faith communities that their members are feeling unsafe in our country. As the noble Baroness, Lady Hussein-Ece, said, Muslim women—especially hijabi women—are very often on the front line of Islamophobia on our streets.

The Government have refused to bring forward a new hate crime strategy, even though the old one is four years old and out of date, and we are seeing soaring levels of Islamophobia and anti-Semitism. Can the Minister tell the House who the Government consulted before making their decision? Did they meet with the Muslim Women’s Network, led by the noble Baroness, Lady Gohir, or any other women’s faith organisations to hear their experiences?

His Majesty’s Government have publicly confirmed, in response to Parliamentary Questions laid previously, that they do not intend to publish a new hate crime strategy. However, we remain committed to protecting all communities from crime and we have a number of programmes in place to do so. For example, the Government have worked with the police to fund True Vision, an online hate crime reporting portal designed so that victims of all types of hate crime do not have to visit a police station to report. We also fund the national online hate crime hub, a central capability designed to support individual local police forces in dealing with online hate crime. This is a cross-departmental piece of work. We are working with every department to try to make sure we cover all bases.

My Lords, is it not important to ensure that young Muslim girls know how they should be treated when they are in the community, and where they can go for help? One of our best academy trusts is Star Academies, which runs Muslim faith schools. In light of the problems that have been outlined, can my noble friend perhaps beef up the teaching and the education in our schools to ensure that young Muslim people know where to go for help and what their expectation of how they are to be treated should be?

I totally agree with the noble Baroness. The Department for Education, the Home Office and all sorts of other departments are involved in this programme. It is really important that we make sure that everyone has the necessary skills to deal with this appropriately.

My Lords, I recently read a report saying that more and more Sikh women are wearing turbans and are often the victims of hate crime as well. Are the Government engaged with any programmes or funding for Sikh women who are the victims of these hate crimes?

I will check for the noble Lord what specific engagement there has been. I am aware that there is cross-faith group engagement—particularly by my noble friend, the Minister sitting alongside me—for all religions and all groups, including women from those faith groups.

My Lords, I welcome the action the Government are taking to ensure much greater integration. My concerns are disadvantaged women in society and their access to health. Can my noble friend tell me whether they are looking not only at hate crime but at access to NHS services?

My noble friend raises a valid point. It is really important that, in all walks of life, nobody feels they are being discriminated against. It is therefore important to make sure that everybody has the necessary skills to raise their concerns and that there are avenues available to do so. I will raise this with my noble friend the Minister for Health to make sure we cover it adequately.

My Lords, can I press the Minister on the question asked by the noble Baroness, Lady Sherlock? She asked what specific groups the Government have been consulting with. In the Minister’s replies to the noble Baroness and to me, she said that the Government are meeting with a small group of Muslim experts. Who are these experts and groups? If she does not have the answer, can the Minister write to me? There are a number of Muslim Peers in the Chamber right now, and I am pretty sure that none of us knows who on earth the Government are talking to.

I do not have a list with me, but it is an extensive list. I undertake to speak with the noble Baroness as to the extent of the engagement.