Diverse communities build resilience in the face of extremism

Fiyaz Mughal is founder and director of Faith Matters, a national charity
Fiyaz Mughal is founder and director of Faith Matters, a national charity

More than 40 individuals from communities in the city have come together with the council.

Fiyaz Mughal is founder and director of Faith Matters, a national charity. He is working with Brighton and Hove City Council to strengthen Muslim, BME, and faith communities in the city against extremism, prejudice, and inequality.

In the last six months, more than 40 individuals from communities that make up the city of Brighton and Hove, have come together with the local authority and have explored a number of areas in a joint desire to tackle some key themes.

Some of these areas have included supporting parents to understand the threats and risks to young people online and this was one of the key areas that parents in the "One Voice" group mentioned. Parents felt that they needed training and support to guide their children better so they could be better informed and aware of online risks to their safety and security.

Members of Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) groups and faith groups also raised a number of areas where support was needed to ensure their voices and input could be heard. Participants also called for support in ensuring community-related work that brought together communities in Brighton could be highlighted by the media and that such work needed to be highlighted to support good community relations, which no doubt could be affected by national or international incidents.

I am also clear that without the local media and without the goodwill, energy and vibrancy of the civil society sector, good community relations cannot develop to their full potential. Brighton and Hove has many strengths - and communities, in general, work together and come together to ensure there is a space for all so that they can live their lives free from fear. Yet, we cannot leave such dynamics to chance; it needs work, energy, and effort from all of us to achieve the desired goal of a safe, inclusive and progressive area that can be a beacon for other areas.

At a time when local authorities are unable to reach out and ensure that the voices of all communities be heard, Brighton and Hove City Council has taken the leadership to facilitate the "One Voice" forum with leadership and a vision to find a solution with communities.

That is why I will be working to develop strong role models and identify media representatives who can work with the local media. Allied to this, the local police service is developing a BME Consultative Group, which will reflect the range of communities and voices in the city.

But we must also not forget that prejudice, bigotry, and hatred is a "light sleeper". This is why part of the work programme is to tackle such intolerance so that local grievances do not become targeted and used by those who seek to divide and play on fears and insecurities. This is essential to note, given that Brighton and Hove is not simply an island unaffected by national events. The key to this is building local resilience against messages of intolerance and ensuring that those who have a voice and who want to speak up, have the opportunity to do so, while being supported and facilitated by the local authority.

The One Voice Group and suggestions from participants will have over-arching actions in a number of areas. From engagement with the police, through to local media and within schools, the core theme is to ensure that people and communities feel included in Brighton and Hove and that they feel that they have a space in which to develop.

When the personal space to develop feels constricted, individuals usually detach from engagement and internalise feelings of grievances mentioned before, meaning that the full potential of the individual cannot be reached. This is precisely what the One Voice work is striving to overcome so that local vulnerabilities do not grow, but are reduced over time.

Finally, with leadership comes responsibility.

Brighton and Hove has shown that it is willing to listen and to act on issues that have far reaching consequences for us all. Yet, there are also obligations on communities and one of these is to keep talking and maintaining dialogue. Brighton and Hove is synonymous as an area that welcomes diversity and celebrates it. Let us work towards building on this and making it a beacon of hope for the country in challenging times.