Hindu groups have pledged to boycott a review by the city council of the recent violence and unrest in Leicester.
A group representing Hindu and Jain temples said they would not take part as they felt previous comments by hate crime expert Dr Chris Allen undermined his impartiality to lead the review.
Sanjiv Patel, spokesperson for the Hindu and Jain Temples in Leicester, claimed Dr Allen’s description of a march by Hindu men through a Muslim area in Leicester lacked balance and, allied with his background studying Islamophobia, made him unsuitable.
“No one is speaking about Hinduphobia here at all,” he said. “The fact he has passed judgement, the fact he has ignored, even in his comments, the other chanting that was happening in the streets of Leicester.
“Basically [he has said] there is no Islamic influence here, there is no Islamic ideology, [which] is a judgement before the facts. All we are asking for is a fair and independent review from parties that have no interest in the local communities from either side. And a process of selecting that panel or person that is clear and transparent – and none of those apply in this case.”
Last week the council announced a review into the cause of recent violent disorder in East Leicester will be led by Dr Chris Allen, Associate Professor in Hate Studies at the University of Leicester.
Leicester’s City Mayor, Sir Peter Soulsby commissioned the review and it is expected that the findings will be published early in 2023.
Sir Peter said: “Dr Allen and his colleagues have a wealth of experience in conducting research into hate crime, and also have a thorough knowledge of our city and the community cohesion we have enjoyed here for many decades.
“There are many theories circulating as to what led to the recent disorder – the like of which has never been seen here before. It’s important that we get to the facts as quickly and efficiently as possible so that we can all take whatever action is necessary to ensure we never see it again.”
Dr Allen said: “In leading the review, I will draw on more than two decades of research expertise to try and better understand what caused the disturbances and why they happened when they did. Far from trying to apportion blame, the learning gathered will instead provide a meaningful starting point, from which we can all work towards rebuilding the good relations that have been a defining feature of Leicester for the past few decades.”
Dr Allen and his team have been asked to produce an informed summary of what happened leading up to, and during the period of the disorder, and to establish any real or perceived contributory factors that lay behind it.
They’ve also been asked to provide an assessment of ongoing and future risks around community tensions and mitigations that could be put in place; and recommendations for actions that could be taken by the council, other public bodies and the community.
Dr Allen said he was “surprised” at the objections given his reputation for objectivity but was keen to engage with everyone.
“Given the concerns expressed by the city’s Hindu temple and community centre leaders, we would like to expedite this opportunity to ensure they – and the city’s Hindus more widely – feel confident in being able to support and contribute to the review process,” he said.
A city council spokesperson added: “We have every confidence in the independence, impartiality and expertise of the University of Leicester and Dr Chris Allen and his team, and we look forward to receiving the report when it is complete.”
Meanwhile, in an open letter delivered to Sir Peter Soulsby, the Mayor of Leicester, dozens of masajid, scholarly groups, and other Islamic institutions in the city “cautiously” welcomed the announcement of a review into the recent violence between Hindus and Muslims in the area.
The 37 Muslim organisations added that they were disappointed that the Hindu organisations were not engaging in the process.
You can watch the 5Pillars report into the unrest in Leicester here.