About 7 to 8 months ago we met with and had discussions with the Office for the Essex Police and Crime Commissioner, Nick Alston. Part of those discussions were to ensure that mosques in the area were provided with basic mosque safety advice and that they were aware of multiple reporting in mechanisms for non-emergency related hate incidents and hate crimes. Part of the suggestion was also that such an outreach capability could help to build confidence and help mosques in the area to feel that they had as many options to report in targeted Islamophobic hate incidents and crimes as possible. It was, in effect, a confidence and community awareness building programme.

We continuously pushed and given the expertise that we had in this area, we called for a joint approach between TELL MAMA and mosques so that members of the public could get access to hate crime reporting information, as well as ways that reports on hate incidents could be registered, logged and actioned through a third-party reporting process. The response that we received was budget driven and felt like anti-Muslim hate was merely an after thought rather than a central part of the strategy to tackle hate crimes in Essex.  This coming after a Braintree resident was jailed for nine months in August 2013. Geoffrey Ryan, 44, of Brick Kiln Way, threw a smoke grenade through the window of the Al Falah mosque in Silks Way, Braintree and shouted threats whilst brandishing two kitchen knives in May 2013. This was in response to the murder of Lee Rigby in May 2013.

When we continued to push for work on Islamophobia to be reviewed by the team of the Essex Police and Crime Commissioner, all we received were responses suggesting that localism and local service provision were being assessed as a way forward in dealing with victim care services. The response in hindsight should have been challenged by us, though there is only so much that a project like ours can do when there are incidents across the country and with 4 staff members covering the whole country. However, what has transpired is a brutal murder that has taken the life of a young 30-year-old visible Muslim woman who was studying at the University of Essex.

Whether this case is based on a motive of anti-Muslim prejudice or not, it is time that the office for the Essex Police and Crime Commissioner review mechanisms to (i) provide re-assurance to local Muslim communities (ii) put into place a system which means that mosques can actively report into TELL MAMA or into the local force and (iii) develop a programme to raise awareness of reporting in Islamophobic hate incidents and crimes. Conversely, if it turns out that this murder is an Islamophobic based hate crime, then the Essex Police and Crime Commissioner may well have to answer questions as to why his department has done very little tangible work on issues around Islamophobia.