A young Hartlepool Muslim has made a film to campaign against growing prejudice.
Shay Miah, 20, says he wants to tackle Islamophobia after he was subjected to physical and verbal abuse for his beliefs.
People are mistaking minority extremists for the majority of the Muslim community. It’s for that reason that I fear for my safetyShay Miah
And he says recent terror attacks by Muslim extremists and the growth of terror group Islamic State have seen the issue get worse for him and others – and he even fears for his own safety.
Shay has linked up with the youth organisation Fixers to make a four-minute film that will be broadcast soon on the ITV regional news.
“When people hear the word Islam they automatically think terrorism,” he said. “I feel like I’m hated for my religion.”
Shay, a former member of the Hartlepool Youth Parliament, says he had to deal with verbal and physical abuse growing up in Sunderland, where he lived until he was about 12.
He said: “I’ve grown up in the North East and I do feel I stand out from the rest.
“In Hartlepool, two per cent of the population is made up of ethnic minorities and 98 per cent is British white.
“The abuse I got growing up was verbal and it became physical. Recently, I think it’s got much worse, especially with what’s happening worldwide.
“People are mistaking minority extremists for the majority of the Muslim community. It’s for that reason that I fear for my safety.
“Everybody is human and we live in a multicultural society. We should appreciate that we’ve got so much diversity in this country.”
In the TV film, Shay, who is studying law at Northumbria University, speaks about the prejudice he has faced and meets a young woman who went through similar experiences.
He also speaks to Dr Matthew Feldman, Professor of Contemporary History at Teesside University.
Dr Feldman said: “Anti-Muslim hate crime seems to be growing. It is encouraging hatred and violence against Muslims in this country and it needs to stop.”
Shay added: “If I make a difference on this issue it would feel like a dream come true.
“I’d feel that I had accomplished what I set out to do and it would mean that telling my story had been worthwhile.
“It would be the best thing I’ve done in my life.”
Fixers is an organisation that helps young people aged 16-25 to tackle issues they feel strongly about.
ITV supports the project by screening broadcasts about youngsters’ campaigns.
Standing for council was a ‘phenomenal experience’
Shay Miah has been getting used to being in the public eye.
Last spring, he made a promising debut as a Labour candidate when he came fourth in the Seaton Ward with 329 votes – 17 per cent of the vote.
Shay said he was pleased with his overall performance and said one of his aims is to get younger people in town enthused about local government.
He is an elected member of the youth parliament and is studying politics, law and business studiese.
Shay said: “It was quite unusual to get such a young candidate standing but I was keen to do so because I wanted to show that politics isn’t just about older people.
“It was a phenomenal experience for me. I have learned an awful lot and enjoyed being a candidate.”
Shay lost out to UKIP’s Tom Hind, while independent candidate Sue Little came second and Graeme Measor, of Putting Hartlepool First, came third. Conservative candidate Jayne Wells was last.