Friends of a victim of 10-year long hate crimes are to stage a demonstration in Bradford to pressure police to take action against the perpetrators and to ask the community to respect the human rights of all neighbours.
Nissar Hussain, 49, was hospitalised on 17 November with a smashed kneecap and broken arm after a violent attack which was captured on CCTV.
He said he was attacked because he converted from Islam to Christianity and that his troubles started after he appeared on a Channel 4 documentary on how Islam converts are treated.
This latest attack came at the same time that Muslims across West Yorkshire were raising complaints about intolerance towards them (See related story) and calling for action against Islamophobia.
His friend, Mohammad Fyaz, is organising a demonstration outside of Bradford Town Hall on 5 December to call for Article 18 of the Declaration on Human Rights to be respected and upheld by the community and authorities in Bradford.
That article states that “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.”
Mr Fyaz, himself a convert, said that when a Muslim practices apostasy (the renunciation of one’s religious belief for another) he or she is brought under severe pressure.
“This is wrong and we want a strong declaration by the Bradford community that they would not condone the violence, harassment and pressure that Mr Hussain had been facing.
“They can do this by coming out and joining our demonstration to send a united message to the perpetrators,” he said.
“We want Christians, Atheists, Humanist, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs and all Nissar’s neighbours to come out, join us in condemning this senseless act. We need to send a message to the perpetrators that this is unacceptable in our British society.”
Calling the attack “one of the most vicious” she’d seen in her constituency, Bradford West MP Naz Shah called for witnesses to come forward. The attack came hours before she chaired the launch of a report around the reporting of religious hate crime.
Ms Shah said what happened to Mr Hussain on his own door step was unacceptable and had no place in Bradford and the world.
“The acts of a few, led by mindless hatred and intolerance, is not the Bradford I know, and most importantly is not something we will allow Bradford to become. Bradford is and will always be a city which is proud of its diversity and it’s culture of welcoming those fleeing persecution as a City of Sanctuary and which I am proud to call home,” she said.
“Let us be clear, we as the communities of Bradford have much more to bring us together than we have to divide us and with that thought I would urge anyone who has any information which could help the bring these attackers to justice to contact the police and help in the investigation,” she added.
Mr Hussain said that this, and previous attacks, were hate crimes, but was concerned that the authorities were not treating his complaints as such.
“From the bottom of my heart, my family and I forgive those who have been persecuting us but we would like to see religious tolerance in society,” he said.
The British Pakistan Christian Association (BPCA) said they want to see laws to clamp down on apostasy in Britain which they said was inspired by Pakistan’s Blasphemy Act and has started a petition to Prime Minister David Cameron over the matter, calling for “proper protection” for citizens who change their religion.
They also want policies and procedures to be officially reviewed.
Bradford Police said they treat reports of hate crime seriously.