Bradford man Ali Shaan, a spiritual leader who was born and grew up in the city, is one of dozens who have reported being the victim of a racist attack in the area this year. The number of unreported incidents is feared to be much higher.
Recently he was walking down Canal Road on his way to prayers, when three young men in a car shouted abuse and spat on him. “It was quite horrible and I was very upset after that,” the 20-year-old Bradford College student said. “Nothing like that had ever happened to me before. That is the kind of thing that seems to becoming more directed towards the muslim community.”
In 2009 the number of hate crimes recorded in West Yorkshire rose 12 times faster than other parts of the country, and monitoring groups in the region say the figure is now on the increase again as polarised views become crystallised and prolific far right bloggers urge attacks on vulnerable members of the muslim community.
The internet is seen as widely responsible for fuelling much of the hatred and as a direct route to access, in particular, young disenfranchised men.
In Yorkshire almost one in five 16 to 24-year-olds are not in education, employment or training (NEET), the highest ever figure recorded for this point in the year.
Shakir Ahmed, editor of Passion Islam which was founded in 2008 as an online news portal and research facility for extremism across West Yorkshire, said: “There has been a huge increase in far right groups and a lot of it has been down to the internet. This growth has been in the past few years, it has really escalated.
“The recession has not helped matters either, everybody from every community is under pressure. The far right groups are using this lack of jobs as part of their attacks to create hatred towards Muslims.
“The biggest recruitment strategy for these off-shoot groups is via social networking, Facebook, Twitter and blogs. These are very common now. It is very dangerous and we do need to tackle that.”