Leeds & West Yorkshire

Dewsbury sports centre runs defence classes to combat Islamophobia

A general view of two Muslim women Image copyright PA
Image caption 280 religious hate crimes were reported to West Yorkshire Police in 2016/17

Girls as young as seven are being taught to how defend themselves against Islamophobic and hate crime attacks.

Kick Off, in Dewsbury, are training women to deal with attacks on their hijabs as well as knife attacks.

West Yorkshire Police figures show 5,155 hate crime offences were committed in 2016/17, including 280 religiously motivated incidents.

Najam Sheikh, from Kick Off, said he hoped participants would feel "confident and empowered" as a result.

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Image copyright Kick Off Dewsbury

Mr Shiekh said: "We've got quite a large Far Right following in Dewsbury and women who are veiled or wearing the hijab were feeling fearful of going out so we felt there was a need.

"We want the women to come out feeling empowered and confident and feeling like they have learned a skill to be able to protect themselves."

A previous eight-week long course run by Kick Off was attended by more than 70 women and girls and a second course has been planned for January.

Mr Sheikh's 16-year-old daughter Hafsah Sheikh, who completed the course, said she had been verbally abused in the street whilst dressed in her abaya - a full-length, loose-fitting black robe - and hijab.

She said that learning how to defend herself had "taken away an element of fear".

"I'm going to go to university in two years and leaving the safety of my parents and the town where I grew up so I think it's important to be able to protect yourself," she said.

"We were taught how to deal with someone grabbing you scarf and ways to defend yourself from people with a knife or trying to choke you."

Mr Sheikh said the course, which is open to all women, had been funded by a £4,000 Sport England grant.

Image copyright Paula Sherriff
Image caption MP for Dewsbury, Paula Sheriff has previously tweeted her support for the project.

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