A CHRISTIAN man, Nissar Hussain, who has been repeatedly attacked after his conversion from Islam, has been moved from his home in Bradford to a safe house.
Mr Hussain, aged 50, and his family, were escorted by armed police to a secret location outside Yorkshire on 4 November, after police were warned of a credible threat against his life. On Wednesday of last week, Mr Hussain and his wife, Kubra, returned to the property to collect their belongings, escorted by armed officers.
The family’s departure followed more than 15 years of harassment, which was perpetrated, Mr Hussain said, by individuals from the Pakistani Muslim community. The family car was vandalised several times, and an unoccupied house next to theirs was set on fire. Last November, Mr Hussain was hospitalised for 11 days after two men attacked him with a pickaxe handle (News, 18 December). No one has been charged in connection with the attack.
The chairman of the British Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA), Wilson Chowdhry, said last week that the area of Bradford in which Mr Hussain had lived had become “a no-go area for apostates (converts from Islam)”; it would "soon become a place exclusive to Muslims if measures are not taken to correct the growing social malaise of fundamentalism, he said."
The All-Party Parliamentary Group for International Freedom of Religion or Belief said in a statement on Thursday of last week that the Hussain family's relocation "typifies a trend of individuals targeted and, on rare occasions, killed for their beliefs in the UK". It called for a Government review of "how and if freedom of religion or belief and the freedom to convert are being taught in the UK".
Speaking last Friday, Mr Hussain, who converted from Islam to Christianity in 1996, said that, when the incidents first occurred, they were recorded as neighbourhood disputes rather than hate crimes, which he described as “political correctness gone mad”. He suggested that the police were reluctant to investigate incidents he reported because they did not want to jeopardise relations with the Muslim community.
A statement from West Yorkshire Police (WYP) this week said: “Police and partners have been working together for some time to try and resolve the situation to the benefit of all parties concerned. All the incidents reported by Mr Hussain have been recorded in line with national guidance.”
In June, after meeting Mr Hussain, Karen Bradley, then a Home Office minister, wrote to the Police and Crime Commissioner for West Yorkshire, Mark Burns-Williamson. Although the WYP had told her that the incidents were recorded as hate crimes, Mrs Bradley underlined in her letter the importance of recording "any crime perpertrated on the basis of the victim's religion" as a religious hate crime.
Mr Hussain said that, although he and his family had attended an independent church, he had hoped for support from the Church of England, but had not received any. The family has been supported by Barnabas Fund and Christian Concern, as well as BCPA, which have helped them to relocate.
Asked what support the Church of England offers to converts from Islam, a Church House spokeswoman said: “Each case is quite different and needs to be handled with great pastoral sensitivity.” She highlighted the interfaith work of the Presence and Engagement programme. A spokesman for the diocese of Leeds cited the Faithful Neighbours project, which “promotes interaction between people of different faiths”, including “open, honest dialogues on difficult issues within safe spaces.”
This month, the BCPA opened a safe house for converts, which can accommodate up to 11 people at a time. The charity estimates that there may be thousands of converts from Islam to Christianity in the UK. Numbers are difficult to gauge because people who convert often go into hiding or move to parts of the country with low concentrations of Muslims.