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‘Unbelievably awful’: Jeremy Corbyn reacts after hearing seven-year-old Muslim girl ‘felt like she had to explain herself’ in school

14:46 04 March 2016

A seven-year-old primary school pupil ‘felt like she had to explain herself’ due to her school’s handling of the Paris attacks, Jeremy Corbyn heard today.

The Labour leader and Islington North MP was chairing a special meeting in Finsbury Park Mosque to hear from women victims of Islamophobia.

It is believed the child’s school was in the Islington borough. The woman, who did not wish to be named, said: “My daughter’s class was shown a video about the Paris attacks. She felt the other children were looking at her in a way that said: ‘You are a Muslim’. She felt like she had to explain herself.”

Mr Corbyn said this was “unbelievably awful”. He also heard from one woman who “finds it difficult to go out in the evenings”. Others told of their fear of persecution using public transport - and their lack of confidence in the authorities to deal with these issues.

And Mr Corbyn - who was joined by bosses from the police, Transport for London (TfL) and Islington Council - said these experiences were why he called the meeting: “The whole point of today is to educate all of us on how to deal with this. I have been learning myself.

“They are issues for the police, for TfL, for the council and for elected representatives like me. They have to be combatted.

“It’s unbelievably awful that a seven-year-old child should have to deal with this in school, when it happened in a place she had never heard of.”

He had a suggestion for dealing with perpetrators of hate crime, such as the man - still at large - who attempted to set fire to the mosque in November by throwing a jerrycan of petrol into its compound. It failed to set alight.

Mr Corbyn said: “If someone is convicted of hate crime, then if that person and the victim in particular are both agreeable to it, that person should meet the victim and be confronted with the hurt they have caused.”

He also criticised some media reporting of terrorist incidents: “There’s a routine handlebar used in the media: ‘Muslim extremists’. It’s wrong.

“I don’t recall Timothy McVeigh being called a Christian extremist [in 1995 he detonated a truck bomb in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people]. He wasn’t a Christian. He was a terrorist. I invite the media to report responsibly.”

Asked by the Gazette afterwards if he was alarmed at how many women present felt alienated, he said: “We deal with alienation by inclusion. That’s why I called this meeting.

“It must have been a horrifying experience for that seven-year-old girl. And we heard that some women are frightened to leave their home. This is unacceptable anywhere. We have to come together.”

Asked how the meeting will inform his policy as Labour leader, he added: “I will look again at Prevent [controversial counter-terrorism strategy in schools, which has been criticised by some for targeting Muslims].

“The more I hear about it, the more I want to look at alternative strategies that deal with abuse, hate crime and racism in our society.”

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