THE MP for St Helens North has vowed to work with the Muslim community to tackle Islamophobia, as reports of hate crimes continue to rise.

This month is Islamophobia Awareness Month, which is held every November with the aim of raising awareness of the threat of Islamophobia and to encourage better reporting of incidents to the police.

Locally, reports of hate crime incidents – which are typically under-reported – have been rising in St Helens for several years.

This is believed to be a result of improvements in police recording, raising awareness of the issue and different methods of reporting.

Between July to September, there were 103 hate crimes reported to agencies in St Helens, according to a new council report.

In the previous quarter, between April to June, there were 74 hate crime incidents reported.

This brings the figure for the year to date to 177, an increase of 21 on the same period in 2019-20.

Current figures are also on course to top last year’s total of 314 reported hate crime incidents, up from 245 the previous year.

St Helens Borough Council’s latest performance report, which covers the period from April to June, says the majority of reported hate crime incidents were racial in nature, followed by homophobic and transphobic incidents.

Over the weekend, a report commissioned and conducted by the Labour Muslim Network (LMN) shone a light on Islamophobia within the Labour Party.

It surveyed Labour’s Muslim members and supporters and found that 37 per cent had witnessed Islamophobia within the party, while 44 per cent said they did not believe the party takes the issue seriously.

The report also found that more than 55 per cent of Labour’s Muslim members do not believe the leadership of the party is able to deal with Islamophobia.

Labour MP Conor McGinn said there should be a “zero tolerance” for hate crimes in St Helens, and said he will continue to challenge any prejudice against the borough’s Muslim community.

Asian Image: Conor McGinn, Labour MP for St Helens NorthConor McGinn, Labour MP for St Helens North

Mr McGinn said: “Islamophobia is one of the highest reported hate crimes and a growing number of Muslims report and experience discrimination.

“Islamophobia also predominantly effects Muslim women who are overwhelmingly on the receiving end of such hate crime.

“Research suggests the majority of victims of Islamophobic hate crimes have been women.

“I believe that we must do everything in our power to ensure that people of all faiths and none have the freedom to pursue their beliefs without fear of harassment or victimisation.

“There should be zero tolerance on any form of hate crime and here in St Helens I will continue to work with and support the Muslim community, recognise their contribution to our borough and challenge prejudice against them.”

The rise in reported hate crime incidents was brought to the attention of St Helens Borough Council’s Labour cabinet last week.

Cllr Jeanie Bell, cabinet member for safer, stronger communities, said agencies continue to closely monitor reported incidents of hate crime in St Helens.

But she added that the authority and its partners want to see an increase in reports in hate crimes as they know they are underreported.

Cllr Bell said: “We’re tackling hate crime within a multi-agency approach through our community safety partnership, with all the relevant agencies.

“From the police and crime commissioner’s office, police, fire, housing – everybody’s got an eye on this and are working hard on it.”