Q&A with Tehmina Kazi for #HateCrimeAwarenessWeek
Tehmina Kazi is the Development Officer at Why me?. She has worked in fields linked to hate crime throughout her career, and initially joined our team to work on our hate crime projects. She answers questions below about her experience with hate crime and the power of Restorative Justice as a response.
1) Tell me about your experience working with hate crime before coming to Why me?
I have worked significantly on hate crime in the UK and Ireland. I did hate crime casework as a Policy and Advocacy Officer for the Cork Equal and Sustainable Communities Alliance, which involved securing apologies and other reparations on behalf of people who had been discriminated against in the provision of goods and services.
Prior to this, I was the Director of British Muslims for Secular Democracy from 2009 to 2016, where I worked on a number of projects that tackled anti-Muslim sentiment. I was an advisor to Tell MAMA and a trustee of Hope not Hate.
I am currently advising the Freedom of Religion or Belief Learning Platform on incorporating religious hate crime into a new course for local changemakers.
2) What attracted you to the idea of working on using Restorative Justice for hate crime?
I was all too aware that victims of crime felt sidelined by the criminal justice process. This is even more acute when it comes to hate crime, as someone who is targeted on the basis of their identity is more likely to suffer mentally as a result. Restorative Justice humanises them to the perpetrator. It is much easier to shout obscenities at a wheelchair user than it is to sit with them and hear that they are suffering panic attacks as a result. But the biggest draw of restorative approaches is that they go beyond specific incidents, and challenge the beliefs and attitudes that underpin hate.
3) What did you learn in your two projects about Restorative Justice and hate crime? What do facilitators need to keep in mind when working with people affected by hate?
Restorative Justice can be an amazing tool for dealing with hate crime, but facilitators need to keep certain things in mind. A key part of this is assessing whether prejudiced comments are likely to be made in the meeting, and factor this into their risk assessment.
For LGBT+ hate crime, facilitators should be trained in LGBT+ awareness and use appropriate terminology. They must be sensitive to the fact that either the harmed or the harmer might not be “out” to everyone.
Grassroots engagement with BAME communities is key for race and religious hate crime, and facilitators should be aware of community dynamics between different BAME communities.
Less than 1% of disability hate crimes reported result in a conviction, partly because the reliability and credibility of the victim is often questioned. I learned how common ‘mate crime’ is for hate crime against people with learning disabilities as well. Accessibility is very important, when organising a RJ conference with people with a disability.
It’s so important that facilitators look like the communities they serve as much as possible, and that they understand how deep and painful the harm from hate can be.
4) Tell me about your new project Project Articulate. Could this further help to increase access to Restorative Justice for people affected by hate crime?
Why me? have received funding from the Bell Foundation to start a new project, called Articulate. Its purpose is to widen access to Restorative Justice for victims of crime with English as an Additional Language.
We hope to work with one Restorative Justice service and one equality and community group in England and Wales in the first year, delivering specialist training, collecting relevant data and sharing good practice at 1-2 roundtables a year.
We are aiming to build on our existing work, increasing access to Restorative Justice for people affected by hate crime, many of whom speak English as an Additional Language.
5) What one thing would you say to someone who is experiencing hate because of their race, religion, sexual identity, gender identity or disability, and doesn’t know what to do?
To report it immediately. 999 in an emergency, or 101 or www.report-it.org.uk if you are not in immediate danger. There is help out there. You do not need to suffer in silence.