A hate crime expert, who was set to lead a review into the cause of recent violent disorder in East Leicester has stepped down, following a “disturbing” and “unwarranted” level of online abuse.
Last week, was announced that Dr Chris Allen, Associate Professor in Hate Studies at the University of Leicester would lead a review into the disorder, which took place in the city back in September, and involved groups of Muslim and Hindu men.
However, the academic has “reluctantly” stood down from the role, after being subjected to a storm of abuse on social media, which he referenced in a statement released yesterday (November 1). However, he was keen to point out that this was not his reason for stepping down.
He said he took the decision as he felt that in the current climate, he and his team would not be able to carry out the review effectively.
Dr Chris Allen said: “I have reluctantly taken the decision to stand down from the role on the basis that I no longer feel confident that my team and I are able to conduct the review in a way that the ensuing findings would meet the necessary levels of academic scrutiny.
“As someone with a long history of undertaking research that is independent and impartial, the need for academic objectivity and rigour are vitally important. In the current climate, I do not believe that it is possible for me to do so in an impartial way and so it is in the interests of the city and the need to find ways to resolution that I have decided to stand down.
“It is important to stress that my decision was not made in response to the unprecedented levels of hate that has been directed towards me in recent weeks or the spurious allegations circulating on social media. While many are outright lies, some are rather more pernicious: distorting and misrepresenting the truth for their own individual and ideological gain.”
Leicester’s City Mayor, Sir Peter Soulsby, who commissioned the review, said the levels of online abuse relating to it were “disturbing”, and he understood Dr Allen’s decision to step down.
“I am sorry that Dr Allen will not be able to lead the research but understand the decision that he and the university have taken,” he said.
“I do think it’s important to proceed with a review, and will be taking soundings locally and nationally as to whether any individual or organisation could take it forward in a way that has the confidence of all parties concerned.”
Professor Nishan Canagarajah, Vice Chancellor of the University of Leicester, said that the institution “fully understood” Dr Allen’s reasons for stepping down.
“We have a duty of care for all of our staff, and it was concerning to see the unwarranted abuse Dr Allen was receiving online, and the effect it might also have on his research team,” he said.
“Nobody should be subjected to such behaviour, and I fully support his decision to stand down from the review.
“The University stands with all those who seek a united, peaceful, and prosperous city and county where everyone can flourish regardless of race, religion or background. Dr Allen not only shares these values, but has taken a lead in this area, by devoting two decades of his life to research hate extremism and the policies designed to counter them. Without his stringent academic independence and integrity, he simply would not have been able to do this so successfully.”