Muslim councillor receives hate abuse amid Brexit vote
Adur's first Muslim councillor has called for councillors to condemn racism and hate crimes after experiencing abuse in the run-up to the EU referendum.
Labour councillor for St Mary’s ward, Shoreham, Sami Zeglam, said he received abusive tweets, direct messages and face-to-face contact in the weeks before the Brexit vote.
Mr Zeglam, 24, who was born in Libya, will table a motion to Adur District Council calling for councillors to unite against hate crimes.
His experience comes as Arun and Chichester Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) offered its support to residents affected by abuse.
Mr Zeglam’s motion will read: “We are proud to live in a diverse and tolerant society. Racism, xenophobia and hate crimes have no place in our country.
“We Adur Council condemn racism, xenophobia and hate crimes unequivocally. We will not allow hate to become acceptable.
“Adur Council will work to ensure local bodies and programmes have support and resources needed to fight and prevent racism and xenophobia. We reassure all people living in Adur that they are valued members of our community.”
Mr Zeglam has suspended his Twitter account in the wake of the abuse, which he said included calls for him to ‘go home’.
In an interview with the Herald, he described a incident at Shoreham Farmers’ Market last month where a man heavily criticised his religion.
He said: “It got quite heated to the point where someone intervened because he was shouting.
“We live in a multicultural and tolerant county and it is a bit sad to see these statements emerging again.”
The incidents were not reported to Sussex Police but Mr Zeglam urged others to do so if they were abused, so police could gather data.
District council leader Neil Parkin said: “I am disgusted by it. I don’t think they should accept it and I would encourage any councillor who has had it happen to them to report it to the police.
“People think they can hide on social media and they can’t.”
Despite the abuse, Mr Zeglam said he had enjoyed his time as a councillor since he was elected in May.
“It has been nice to try to make a difference and help residents get their voices heard,” he said.
Tina Favier, interim director for communities at Adur and Worthing councils, repeated Mr Parkin’s call for those affected by abuse to contact police.
She said: “Abuse of any kind is completely unacceptable and we urge anyone witnessing, or experiencing, abusive acts to contact Sussex Police to report it as a hate incident using 101 immediately.
“The councils are continuing to work with Sussex Police to combat these issues, and, by reporting such incidents, you will be playing a part in eradicating them from our communities.”
The CAB has urged residents to visit its website here for free advice.
Guidance on the impact of Brexit is also available.
Carol Groves, Arun and Chichester branch chief executive said: “The result of the EU referendum of course has implications for us and our clients and I see our role to be a source of impartial expert advice on what the outcome means for people.”