Senior government ministers and anti-hate campaigners issued their determination to tackle abuse on social media during the annual #No2H8 Crime Awards, writes  

Bringing together distinguished guests from politics, journalism and the charity sector, the national awards ceremony championed those who tackle hatred, intolerance and prejudice in all of its forms.

Addressing the 220-strong audience, Fiyaz Mughal, founder of #No2H8 Crime awards and director of Faith Matters, argued social media provided a voice for “hatred” and helped foster a “rise in hate crime, intolerance and bigotry”.

Echoing the message, Lord Bourne, Minister for Faith, added: “The Government is determined to tackle the use of social media for issuing abuse towards those perceived as different.

“It is despicable that new technology is used for such a disgraceful purpose and as a country we will not stand for it.”

Lord Bourne promised perpetrators would be punished using the full force of the law and encouraged attendees to help remember the victims of hate crime by posting supportive messages on social media as part of this week’s National Hate Crime Awareness Week 2017, running from 14 to 21 October.

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Richard Benson, chairman of the awards and former director of the Community Security Trust, praised winners for “standing together at this time of national need” and for tackling the “growing industry” of hate.

Twelve awards were issued during the glittering event at the Hyatt Regency London – The Churchill Hotel in Portman Square, media sponsored by Jewish News and the Huffington Post. Highlights included the Jo Cox Memorial Award, which was won by Stop Funding Hate,
a campaign that was launched last summer and urged advertisers not to spend money with 
The Daily Mail and The Sun following negative headlines about refugees.

Another memorable image of the night was the sight of Dr Imam Mamadou Bocoum and Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg walking hand in hand to collect the Sheikh Abdullah Award for Intercultural Dialogue.

Speaking to Jewish News after collecting the award, Wittenberg spoke of his “warm friendship and admiration” for Bocoum.

“He has spoken out courageously about the need for a new interpretation of the Koran. It’s a privilege to know someone like that,”
he said.

“We’ve spoken together on the importance of standing together, tackling hate and observing our religious traditions within a context of understanding and inclusivity for each other.

“The Jewish community is a small community. It’s terribly important to build bridges with those we can, to establish solidarity and to stand up for those who are victimised in our society.”

Jewish News editor Richard Ferrer presents an award

Jewish News editor Richard Ferrer presents an award

Other awards included The Public Sector Upstander Award, won by Dr Nasser Kurdy, a Muslim surgeon who voluntarily operated on those injured during the Manchester Arena bombing, and was then himself the victim of a hate crime outside a mosque in September.

The Lifetime Achievement Award was won by Dr David Hoffman, a photographer who has worked tirelessly for more than 30 years to
capture the images of hate crime.

He recalled his experience of photographing vandalised Jewish cemeteries: “You feel a bit sick, but also get a great deal of pleasure from using the hatred, anger and Nazi symbols as weapons against those very haters. Using the damage they’ve done as a weapon against them gives me enormous satisfaction,” he added.

The Sophie Lancaster Foundation, set up in memory of a teenager who was murdered for the way she dressed, won the Upstanding Organisation Award.

Jack Stanley, the schoolboy whose befriending of Syrian refugee Rani touched the hearts of the nation on Channel 4’s Educating Manchester, picked up the Young Upstander Award, while Emma Roebuck, a transgender women campaigning on behalf of LGBT communities, won the CPS Special Award.

Speaking to Jewish News, host Adrian Chiles said: “It was a really amazing evening.
Call me sentimental but, as Jo Cox said, ‘there is more that unites us than divides us’, and I think we saw that throughout.”

Sajid Javid, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, said: “Behind each of these awards lies a story of fearless commitment to making sure Britain is a place where people of all faiths and backgrounds can live their lives without fear of attack for who they are or what they believe.”