Leicester unrest: Hindu groups to boycott review over fears of bias

Hindu groups in Leicester have said they will boycott a review into recent disorder in the city as they believe the academic appointed to lead it is biased.

On Wednesday, the Leicester city mayor, Peter Soulsby, announced that the review would be conducted by Dr Chris Allen, an associate professor in hate studies at the University of Leicester.

A letter to the mayor, signed by 13 Hindu temples in Leicester, said the Hindu community had “little confidence in the process” and would boycott it.

It says Allen’s comments on Twitter ruling out Islamist extremism in the unrest had “cast strong doubts on his suitability to lead the review”, adding that “to assert a conclusion ahead of the review” raised doubts about his independence.

The letter also said the community was upset that the announcement of the review details had disturbed the Hindu new year, despite assurances it would be delayed until after the festive period.

The letter said the review process was now “muddied before it’s even started”, and called on the Home Office to intervene.

Leicester Conservatives said Lady Verma, an Indian-British politician who lives in the city, had also written to the home secretary requesting the Home Office take control of the review and select an independent panel to investigate instead.

The review will seek to determine the underlying reasons for the unrest and disorder that swept the east of the city in September, which involved people armed with sticks and bats carrying out assaults, throwing missiles and fireworks and smashing cars.

A number of police officers were injured and dozens of arrests were made.

The review will also make recommendations for change, and “support the national development of a blueprint for other cities to embed positive community cohesion”.

Rita Patel, a Leicester councillor for the Rushey Mead ward, said she had “had numerous residents express their anger and frustration” at the selection of the academic.

“The findings will always be questioned if the communities are not satisfied with the independent review in the first place, rendering it redundant,” she said. “It saddens me to see that this opportunity to bring communities together has been squandered and it will now only enhance distrust amongst communities. This review needs to find a new panel of truly independent investigators for it to work for all.”

Allen said he found the concerns “surprising” and that his “rigour, objectivity and reputation for independent research saw me commissioned by the EU, UK national government and various local authorities”.

“The misunderstanding would seem to centre on the fact that some of my research has focused on Muslim communities,” he said. “So too has my research centred on all forms of religiously motivated hate, the role of religion in the public and political spaces, and the threat posed by Islamist-inspired and far-right extremist ideologies.”

He said the team would meet all of Leicester’s religious leaders to “explain the review in more detail and allay any concerns” and given the concerns of the Hindu community he would “expedite this opportunity”.

The mayor’s office has been approached for comment.


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