From 22-23rd July, Forward Thinking’s UK Programme held a virtual ‘community visit’ involving a series of bilateral meetings with prominent community figures from across the North West and Yorkshire. Forward Thinking’s community visits typically involve travelling around the UK to speak with key community contacts about the issues they are currently facing in their communities and how Forward Thinking may respond to these. However, given restrictions as a result of COVID-19, these meetings were held online.

Community members spoke to the way that COVID-19 has brought to the fore underlying racial and religious inequalities. The perceived ‘double standard’ in coverage of instances of Muslim and non-Muslim communities breaking government guidance around social distancing was highlighted as a particular point of concern during discussions. The positive contribution mosques and Muslim community organisations to support their communities during this time was, however, also emphasised. Participants also highlighted that current geopolitical issues, including recent developments in Kashmir, Libya, and Yemen, are also seen to be having an impact on relations at the local community level.

These discussions provided an opportunity for Forward Thinking to share updates from recent activities, to understand the current needs in communities and to discuss potential ways forward.