Harrogate rallies round Starbeck shop owner after vile racist attack

Joint owner of Spoilt Gelato Pajwa Mo (on right) with his daughter Laiqa (9) and joint owner Khuram Jahangir outside Spoilt Gelato in Starbeck.(1607253AM1)
Joint owner of Spoilt Gelato Pajwa Mo (on right) with his daughter Laiqa (9) and joint owner Khuram Jahangir outside Spoilt Gelato in Starbeck.(1607253AM1)

The Harrogate community has rallied behind a popular independent business owner who was racially abused outside his own shop.

Pajwa Mo, owner of Spoilt Gelato, was subjected to a tirade of foul-mouthed, racial abuse as he stood outside his ice cream parlour on Starbeck’s High Street on Sunday.

Shocked customers intervened and argued with the man as he continued his verbal assault on Pajwa before he was eventually led away from the shop.

Pajwa admitted that it was the first time he had felt “targeted” whilst working in Harrogate and that the attack had left him angry and upset.

However, he stressed that the abuse he suffered has not changed his perception of the town and stressed he would never be intimidated into leaving his home.

He said: “I wasn’t even speaking to the man but for some reason he targeted me. He said hello to other people in the shop but just directed his anger at me.

“The last time this man came into the shop he told me to go back home. But this is my home, I was born and raised in Bradford and so were my children.

“I could move back to Bradford and say I can’t be bothered with this but if I do that then he’s won. I’m not letting these kind of people win.

“My thoughts about Harrogate don’t change because of one idiot - 99 per cent of the people here are brilliant and they’re the reason I come to work smiling.”

Since the attack, Pajwa said he has been “overwhelmed” by the kind wishes and messages of support from residents, both on Facebook and inside the shop.

Figures have shown there have been more than 6,000 reports of hate crime to police since mid June, following the UK’s decision to leave the EU.

But, despite the increase in hate crimes nationally, Pajwa said he still feels “loved and supported” in Harrogate.

He said: “People with a brain voted in or out and that’s fine either way. But the people without a brain voted out because they wanted to get rid of foreigners.

"It’s sad because I thought we had moved on from this and there was no difference between us.

"I’ve always wanted everyone to feel welcome in my shop. I could open this shop wherever, but I opened it in Harrogate because I like the people here, they’re my family.

“You get the odd idiot here but it’s not as bad as elsewhere in the county. But I don’t come back to work for people like him, I come back for the rest of the people here.”

Following the sharp rise in hate crimes since the Brexit vote, the Home Secretary Amber Rudd has announced that police handling of these incidents is set to be reviewed.

Pajwa did not tell police about the incident and instead called for a different approach to tackle hate crime. He said: “The police said I should get some CCTV but I don’t want to do that.

"Why should I spend so much money for people like him

"Obviously I’m angry and upset. But if I start thinking like him, ‘well he’s English, he must be a racist’, then I have a problem.

“If I started raising my kids to hate, how would that look in 20 years time? How many English children would suffer at the hands of Asian children?

“We’re not going to move forward by me talking to a newspaper. We will move forward by teaching children to see people as people and not a race."