By Catherine Ross
I usually think of my hometown as a fairly peaceful, middle of the road kind of place. “Nice” is probably the most used adjective to describe this town. It’s the kind of town where the biggest issues affecting the community are dog mess on the pavements, new lamp posts and the spectre of new housing development.
I was horrified, therefore, to discover that a Muslim family here have been the victims of a series of hate crimes. The family – hardworking, married, two children – have been living in fear since the tragic events in Woolwich, where a member of the armed forces was murdered in broad daylight.
The crime was an awful one and the people were responsible were arrested and are due to stand trial next month.
Quite what that has to do with this family in Horsham is a mystery. That the people perpetrating the crimes against this family can’t see the difference between two mentally unstable men killing someone and claiming it in the name of their religion and a family of four who had nothing whatsoever to do with it, is worrying.
In fact, in the aftermath of the Woolwich attack, there was a massive spike in anti-Muslim prejudice across the country. There was a wave of attacks, harassment and hate filled speech against Muslims, which hasn’t entirely subsided back to pre-Woolwich levels.
Can people really not see the difference between the peaceful practice of a religion and the extreme, twisted version of a religion that a few people invoke as the reason for their own terror and hatred? Is it really so hard to distinguish between a normal family and a terrorist?
There are extreme versions of every religion. There are bad people in the world who will look for excuses to be bad – many of them find their excuses in holy books. But it’s time we stopped letting these extremists tar our opinions and understanding of entire communities. And it’s time we stopped letting the religion a family chooses to practice become the defining factor in our understanding of them.
We don’t assume that every Christian is an extreme right wing, pro-lifer or an extreme white supremacist, so why do some people assume that anyone with brown skin or wearing a head scarf is an Islamic extremist. No family should have to live in fear and no mother should every have to hear their child ask them why people hate them.