More than 100,000 demand inquiry into hate crime in UK schools

Petition was created after viral video of attack on 15-year-old Syrian youth in northern England.

    More than $175,000 was raised for the teenager after video of the abuse came to light [Screengrab: Twitter]
    More than $175,000 was raised for the teenager after video of the abuse came to light [Screengrab: Twitter]

    More than 100,000 people have signed a petition calling on British Prime Minister Theresa May to launch an inquiry into rising hate crime and racist bullying in British schools.

    The petition was started in the aftermath of an attack on a Syrian refugee boy known only by his first name, Jamal, at a school in the northern English city of Huddersfield.

    A video of the incident went viral late November, sparking a huge outpouring of sympathy for the child and calls for authorities to do more to tackle hate crime.

    Lawyers for the boy seen in the video said he and his sister were frequent targets of racist bullying and the school and local authorities had failed to address the issue.

    "The story could have ended very differently had it not received global coverage," wrote Dr Shameela Islam-Zulfiqar, a community doctor who first published the video of Jamal being attacked and started the petition. 

    "Racial hate crime in schools is under-reported. Better training is needed for staff to recognise, address and escalate the issues to safeguard all children equally," she added.

    "Despite Jamal having had his arm broken and his sister attempting suicide by slashing her wrists, both siblings endured another five weeks of humiliation at the hands of their bullies." 

    Safeguarding measures

    The petition calls for a review of current safeguarding measures, especially for children such as Jamal and his sister who have experienced war and displacement.

    It additionally calls for monitoring of students at risk of far-right radicalisation.

    In a tweet on Tuesday, Jamal's family lawyer, Mohammed Akunjee, wrote: "Our society had until last week failed Jamal, we feel privileged to have been part of a societal response to make good on that failure... Let us hope we learn from this for the sake of ourselves."

    As the petition was filed on a private site and not the government's own website, the government is not required to respond. However, British Home Secretary Sajid Javid said he had seen the video and reached out to Jamal and his family, noting he had experienced similar racist abuse as a child.

    In late November, just before the video of Jamal being beaten went viral, a parliamentary committee report found pervasive Islamophobia in British society and described the phenomenon as a form of racism.

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    SOURCE: Al Jazeera News