A leading campaigner has called on Asian and other ethnic communities in Darlington to support a new local campaign against hate crime.

Sajna Ali, who works as an advisor and liaison officer, has welcomed the Hate Hurts campaign for raising awareness about hate crime and for its mission to encourage reporting.

She believes the campaign can help to persuade ethnic communities that the police will listen and take seriously any reports of hate incidents, and that discreet support is available.

The campaign is being led by County Durham and Darlington Police, Crime and Victims’ Commissioner Ron Hogg, who is calling on businesses, schools and colleges, churches and the general public to stand united against hate crime.

The campaign has already secured the support of The Bishop of Durham, MPs Kevan Jones and Roberta Blackman-Woods, Darlington Football Club, the North East Chamber of Commerce and YMCA Teesdale as well as the Crown Prosecution Service, Darlington Council and Durham County Council.

Sajna, a Bangladeshi Muslim who was born and grew up in Darlington, hopes that encouraging more dialogue will help to build trust across communities.

She believes the campaign could help to break down barriers and encourage victims to come forward, whether they have suffered hate externally or from within their own community.

Sajna, who is BAME (black, Asian, minority ethic) officer for Labour in Darlington, said: “Hate crime is real and it’s getting worse. What worries me is how much goes unreported by ethnic communities. There are a number of reasons for this, including the restrictions communities impose upon themselves about engaging with official organisations and drawing attention to themselves.

“It’s so important to engage. The more we talk, the more we can build confidence that the police and others are there to help us.”

She added: “Integration reduces isolation. When we meet and talk it promotes understanding because we see that we are all just human, we have the same emotions and face the same issues.

“We don’t want communities to be isolated because that plays into the hands of organisations that promote Islamophobia. If we stand up against it then we can counter any form of extremism.”

She acknowledges that hate also occurs within communities, for example, when individuals are perceived to break religious or social rules and that shame, stigma and the threat to status of admitting internal conflicts may prevent reporting.

“In a small town like Darlington if there are perpetrators within our communities then it has to be spoken about. We don’t want to make the same mistakes as the towns in Yorkshire where people didn’t tell because they feared being seen as racist. Crime is crime, whatever community it occurs in.

“This campaign is local; it’s about making where we live better and it shows that people genuinely care about each other here.”

  • For more information on the campaign, visit www.hatehurts.co.uk