Bristol anti-Islamophobia group aims to 'demystify Muslims'

Heather, Hasina & Rachel
Image caption Hasina Khan (centre) said the event was a chance to "have fun and try on hijabs" to raise awareness of Islamophobia

A group set up to tackle Islamophobia has been stopping passers-by in Bristol in an attempt to "demystify Muslims".

Hasina Khan, from the Tackling Islamophobia Working Group (TIWG) said it was "in some aspects the first opportunity for some to meet Muslims".

She said it was a chance to "ask questions, have fun trying on hijabs" and talk about the rise in hate crime.

Since 2017, 72% of religious hate crimes against women in Bristol were anti-Muslim, police said.

Image caption Hasina Khan, Mariyah Akhtar and Hafsa Abdur-Rahman set up the stall at Broadmead's Christmas Market in Bristol

Ms Khan, who said she had experienced hate crime, said: "The people who have come over say 'this is really important what you are doing'.

"I think it's because of the amount of hate crime and there's also a bit of mystery about Muslim people.

"There's a lot of positivity and awareness of what we're doing today, there'll be more harmony in the community."

Image caption Matthew Hamey said he wanted to "learn a bit more about what I can do to hopefully integrate more people".

Matthew Hamey, from Weston-super-Mare, said: "We live in the 21st Century now and racism of any sort shouldn't be part of our society.

"I spent the first eight years of my life in the Middle East, in Bahrain - it had an impact, most definitely.

"You obviously come into contact with local Bahrainis and they treated us the same as they wanted to be treated. They didn't let religious differences get in the way."

Image caption Hasina Khan helps Heather Staniforth try on a headscarf
Image caption Heather Staniforth and Rachel Weeks are colleagues of Hasina Khan and came along to support her during the Islamophobia Awareness Month event

Rachel Weeks said: "I literally grew up in a village just outside Bristol and I had no idea there would be any hatred towards my friend.

"She's my only Muslim friend, so just to have an idea that this sort of thing would happen to her - it's nice to support her.

"I've been very lucky not to have been exposed to horrible things. It still shocks me that people are like that."

Heather Staniforth said: "I lived in Malaysia and Singapore, so I have Muslim friends and obviously living in Singapore, everything is set up for that religion. Events like this are important because it shows love."

Image caption Sukhi said it was a "really good idea" to get people from diverse backgrounds "involved in the community"

Sukhi, from Bristol, said: "Because people have a negative view with all different walks of life, it's very important to have people from minorities, from BME groups and they can interact and make people understand.

"We need to break these walls and these barriers that are dividing people."

Image caption PCSO Matthew Cawsey takes a selfie with Yusuf Abdul-Jobbar

Alex Raikes, from Stand Against Racism and Inequality said the group was "doing all we can to combat negative and destructive perceptions of Muslim communities and Islam".

"A big aim of the group is to take part in positive activities that challenge myths and stereotypes and break down fear and division.

"TIWG joining the Christmas Market and engaging with local shoppers in conversation and fun activities is one great way to do this."

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