'The racism hasn't gone away': Rochdale reflects after Christchurch

On a rainy Monday afternoon outside Neeli mosque in Rochdale, the crowd heading to daily prayers is smaller than usual, and has been for the past few days. “The older generation have been too scared to come recently,” says Mohammad Khalid, a worshipper leaving the mosque. “I’m 50 and I’ve lived in Rochdale my whole life. I’ve seen it go from a white area to now being mixed with a large community of Muslims, and the racism hasn’t gone away.”

After the terror attack on Friday in Christchurch in New Zealand, where 50 people were killed while praying in two mosques, a number of hate crimes have been reported in the UK. On Saturday, a 24-year-old man from nearby Oldham was arrested for allegedly posting hate speech on social media and has since been bailed pending further inquiries. In Stanwell, Surrey, a 19-year-old man was stabbed in a suspected far-right terror attack, while in Rochdale on Sunday, a 38-year-old woman was arrested for online comments made about the shootings, and two people were charged for allegedly racially abusing a taxi driver while referencing Christchurch.

“I’m always worried about how what I say might get misinterpreted,” says Shakil Hussain, a Rochdale taxi driver. “I never talk politics because a lot of people keep their racist thoughts bottled up and you don’t know when they might snap. So I wasn’t surprised to hear about this abuse to another taxi driver on Sunday.”

Read the feature in the Guardian.

[This piece was published on 18/03/19]