ALISON MAU: We should police hate speech like we do with other crimes

I watched the footage Mehpara Khan shot on her cellphone while she was being attacked at Huntly on the weekend on social media, in its raw state, before the attacker’s face had been blurred.

I’m glad I did actually - because it allowed me to see the woman’s face.

Facial expressions tell you a lot about a person’s intent - which is why you sometimes read an email or a text and completely misconstrue the author’s meaning. Without looking someone in the whites of their eyes, as the saying goes, it’s easy to get the intent of the words quite muddled.

There was no misconstruing this woman’s intent. Not for a moment.

The rage on her face, the hate in her eyes, was absolutely chilling.

I’ve heard people since argue the toss about whether this can correctly be described as racism or not, given that Islam is a religion, not a race. If you’re a stickler for grammar, maybe bigotry is more appropriate.

But does it really matter? What it definitely was, is hate speech. No question.

There’s plenty of anecdotal stories circulating the internet about an increase in race/religion-based attacks happening in the United States and around the world since Donald Trump started stirring during the presidential campaign.

There are those who’ll hear his words and feel they now have permission to say out loud whatever it is that’s been hiding in their dark little hearts.

The thing is, we won’t know how bad the problem is until we start counting. In the United States there are various bodies keeping track of hate incidents - one of them called HateWatch has counted around 1400 since election day.

I think we should do the same here. In just the same way we track numbers of burglaries, car thefts, and shoplifting incidents.

Apparently, at the moment, this is not something the police are doing - but how will we know if a problem is growing in our society if we don’t recognise it, and look at it closely?

Surely it would be better to keep the journal now - and avoid getting hit by a racism curveball later.

Alison Mau hosts RadioLIVE Drive from 3pm-6pm weekdays.