In a survey conducted for the report, published on Monday, it was revealed that 65% of respondents reported being a victim of ‘hateful behaviour’, with 33% of all respondents saying they had experienced hate crime based on ethnicity.
The Preventing Hateful Extremism and Promoting Social Cohesion report was commissioned by the region’s mayor Andy Burnham following the suicide bombing last May, which killed 22 people.
In the weeks following the attack, Greater Manchester Police reported a 130% rise in hate crime, including a 500% rise in Islamophobic related hate crime.
The report found that a “perpetuating cycle of lack of information” about the government’s counter-terrorism strategy, Prevent, has led to “genuine fears” of persecution among the region’s Muslims.
Although Prevent was “working well” in the region, it was not getting its message across to communities where “high levels of distrust and suspicion of statutory agencies continues to exist”, the authors stated.
The report concluded there should be an effort to move Prevent – which aims to stop people becoming terrorists or supporting terrorism – away from the police and law enforcement to wider safeguarding.
It stated: “It was strongly felt that the positive work going on across Greater Manchester was not being appropriately disseminated into communities, where high levels of distrust and suspicion of statutory agencies continues to exist.
“It was felt that the lack of information was exploited by those with an anti-Prevent or anti-Islam agenda who maliciously miscommunicated the aims of Prevent or true nature of the issue without evidence to support their claims.
“Organisations and individuals found it difficult to challenge this narrative without statistics to refute the claims. This has perpetuated the problem, leading to the creation of suspect communities and fear of persecution amongst Muslim communities.”
It went on to say that there was a strong feeling from the members of the Muslim community that Prevent “targets Muslim communities and that this was a genuine fear felt by Greater Manchester Muslims”.
In response, Burnham said: “If the perception of the Prevent strategy is different from the reality, then that can be exploited by those seeking to undermine any form of counter-terrorism strategy.
“Therefore we accept the need, as identified in the report, to provide more information about Prevent. Any counter-terrorism strategy needs to be localised, have community buy-in and be seen to be fair to all communities rather than appearing to target one.”
The report said that the impact of reductions to public and community services has exacerbated inequalities in Greater Manchester, “leading to a lack of opportunity for people to naturally meet and interact”.
“Feedback suggests there is now little opportunity for people from both similar and different backgrounds to meet naturally and have conversations. This is likely to have exacerbated fear and suspicion of different communities,” the report states.