Following the ‘Punish a Muslim Day’ campaign, which encouraged a day of anti-Muslim attacks on April 3rd, nearly a hundred people from Citizens UK formed a human chain outside a Newcastle mosque to fight racism and Islamophobia and stand in solidarity with the Muslim community, along with a number of anti-racism events which were held around the country[1]. The group stated on Twitter that they were “Spreading love not hate, building bridges not walls”. The gesture follows the ‘Love a Muslim Day’ campaign, which was also launched to counter the anti-Muslim campaign[2].

In response to the Islamophobic campaign, women were warned to hide their hijabs and not go out alone, and members of the community were warned about being careful and locking their doors[3].

An Islamophobic watchdog group said it had received two reports of hate crime at the end of the day, but did not give further detail[4]. Fake claims about Muslims being killed on 3rd April were spread on social media, one claiming that ten Muslims had been killed[5].

The Metropolitan police said of the Islamophobic campaign and the response, “These messages seek to cause fear and mistrust amongst our communities and to divide us. Yet in spite of this our communities have shown strength in their response to such hatred and in their support for each other”[6].

While the responses to the hate campaign have been praised, it has drawn attention about the prevalence of Islamophobia which is faced by the Muslim community. In response to the ‘Love a Muslim Day’ campaign, Salma El-Wardany criticised the campaign for being yet another manifestation in the endless cycle in the mistreatment of Muslims, as written about here. Meanwhile, a New Statesman article calls attention to the fact that the kinds of anti-Muslim actions suggested in the letter campaign are not novel, but are part of an ongoing and serious experience for the Muslim community.

On the Guardian website, Aziz attributes the ‘Punish a Muslim Campaign’ to a wider trend of Islamophobia which includes the jailing of Britain First leaders for anti-Muslim hate crimes, the conviction of Paul Moore for trying to kill two Muslim women, and the Finsbury Park Mosque terrorist attack. Aziz states that to truly counter Islamophobia, “we needed a grounded and honest national conversation about the extent of the problem. We also need a prime minister and government that will lead by example and make it crystal clear that structural barriers impacting Muslims’ lives and the racism Muslim communities face will be tackled robustly … We also need a strong and diverse anti-racism movement willing to tackle the politics of bigotry and division head-on”.

Poignantly, Younus writes that she did not change her plans to protect herself on ‘Punish a Muslim Day’ “Because if I stopped everything every time I was in danger, I wouldn’t get anywhere … Being Muslim is knowing how to navigate, and survive, and thrive, even while you duck and dodge and jump. Sometimes, it’s a hate crime, coming at you. It’s the constant, ever-rising threat of violence. It’s those numbers and those brutalities that control your narrative … Always they are rising, always they are underreported. Being Muslim is the pervasiveness of this violence. It isn’t distant. It’s hit the mosque you attend, whether in the form of a bomb threat, a threatening letter, or bullet holes. Sometimes it’s even reached your home, or your school”.

[1] Herbert, 2018; Roundtree, 2018.

[2] Herbert, 2018.

[3] Herbert, 2018.

[4] Roundtree, 2018.

[5] Belam, 2018.

[6] Belam, 2018.

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Sources

Belam, M. (2018) ‘UK communities take action against ‘Punish a Muslim Day’ letter’. [online] 3rd April. https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/apr/03/uk-communities-take-action-against-punish-a-muslim-day-letter. [Accessed 7 April 2018].

Herbert, T. (2018) ‘Dozens hit out at ‘Punish a Muslim Day’ by forming human chain around mosque’. [online] 3 April. http://metro.co.uk/2018/04/03/dozens-celebrate-punish-muslim-day-forming-human-chain-around-mosque-7437511/. [Accessed 6 April 2018].

Roundtree, C. (2018) ‘Compassionate Brits from human chain around mosque and hold ‘Hug A Muslim Day’ events after feared ‘Punished A Muslim Day’ fails to materialise’. [online] 4 April. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5576895/Protestors-form-human-chain-mosque-protests-held-UK-wide-against-Punish-Muslim-Day.html. [Accessed 7 April 2018].