Islamophobia in the West – A Report from Britain

Friday 27-04-2001

      The speculation about the perpetrators of the atrocities in New York and Washington on September 11, has led to the expected backlash against Muslim…

The speculation about the perpetrators of the atrocities in New York and Washington on September 11, has led to the expected backlash against Muslim communities in Britain as elsewhere. The range of Islamophobic hate incidents reported has ranged from verbal/written abuse to grievous assault. As yet, there have been no deaths reported, though in the USA, at least two people have died – one Pakistani shop owner and a Sikh petrol pump operator, who it is assumed, was mistaken for a Muslim!

Despite calls from no less figures than President George Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair that the Muslims who may have perpetrated the atrocity should be dissociated from Islam and the general Muslim community which is law- abiding, the reports of hate incidents are on the increase. Sensationalist media speculation and accusations combined with the platform given to marginal agitators who claim to speak for Islam and have applauded the attack on the Twin Towers, are thought to have prompted dozens of incidents reported to The Muslim News. It is estimated that hundreds of people have been the target of Islamophobic hate crimes.

At the least Muslims and their organisations and mosques have received verbal and written abuse. And children who can barely relate to the events in America, are being related to the terrorist actions, have not been spared. For instance, sixth form students of Asian and Arab/European parentage at the state Comprehensive Boys School in East Finchley, London, were accused by white pupils of being “terrorists” and they murmured “Get those bastards”. At a Roman Catholic School, in Islington a 13 year-old boy, was verbally abused, “Your family has done this, what happened in America.” When he complained to his teacher, the teacher punished the boys. A ten-year-old boy in a state school in Pinner, Middlesex, came home and asked his father, “Are Muslims bad people?” Dinner ladies at his school were blaming the Muslims for the terrorist attacks.

The national teacher’s union, NASUWT, has since issued guidance to schools on how to handle this issue sensitively. Many mosques and Islamic organisations have had abusive calls and email – in Tooting, south London, a graffiti was daubed on the wall of the mosque, “Murdering bastards”. Similar incidents have been reported as far afield as Belfast, Wales and in Scotland.

Britain’s first state funded Islamic School, Islamia Primary School, Brent, was forced to close, after threatening telephone calls. The School secretary who wears Hijab was verbally abused while out shopping. Two other schools on the site, a secondary school and sixth-form college for girls and in total around 500 were kept at home for two days as were the children of Brondesbury College for Boys.
In Southend, Islamophobes went a stage further and actually attacked a mosque.

The Imam’s daughter, Siddiqah Awan, told The Muslim News, “We live upstairs and were woken up by the smashing of the windows. We were devastated, that a holy place was desecrated”. Police are investigating. London’s Regent’s Park mosque was evacuated after hoax bomb threats after Asr prayers on September 13. In Oldham and Bolton mosques were also attacked – Jamia Alavia Islamic Centre in Bolton had 2 or 3 petrol bombs thrown against it as 20 people (including children) inside were praying Isha (evening) prayers.

More seriously still, there have been serious attacks on individual Muslims and people who look like Muslims (e.g., Sikhs) where violence has been aggravated by Islamophobia. For instance, in the North East, a 20 year old Bangladeshi man suffered a broken jaw after being beaten and kicked by a gang of youths. In Swindon, a woman aged 19 wearing Hijab, was attacked by two unknown white males. No arrests have been made; the police are appealing for witnesses. She believes a metal baseball bat was used to hit her. She was repeatedly hit around the head with a baseball bat. The victim was released from hospital after being treated for bruising . It is being treated as a racially motivated attack and the police are not ruling out the possibility of a link with the incident in the US. Although, the victim believes it is a result of this.

Most seriously of all, an Afghani taxi driver has been left paralysed from the neck down after an argument over a fare led to a vicious assault where, it is believed, the man’s origin was a factor in aggravating the attack. Police have arrested three men on suspected GBH on Hamidullah Gharwal (28). The incident took place in Twickenham in SW London. Also, an Afghan asylum seeker was assaulted while walking in Dover, Kent.

A 20-year-old university student on September 12 at 6pm, in Longsight, Glasgow, was going to her sister’s house by bus. During the journey, a white man sitting behind her said “You Muslim bastard” and then he hit her over the head with a glass Tizer bottle.

Nobody came to her rescue; she remained quiet after the incident, as she was too frightened and alighted at her stop. “I was in a daze and didn’t know what to do, the driver didn’t do anything even though he saw what had happened. The bus was full. It is a sad thing that because of anti-Muslim feeling no one came to my rescue,” she told The Muslim News. Attacks have also been reported to The Muslim News from Europe and further afield.

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