A video has been circulating on social media that shows Hanane Yakoubi, a pregnant Muslim woman, being verbally abused on a London bus by a black woman. It reminded me painfully of my own experience some years ago: a white woman in her 50s verbally harassed me, saying: “You Muslims, you’re disgusting. I’m going to kill you. You Muslims. I’m going to kill you.” She said this over and over again, and while this was hardly comparable to Yakoubi’s experience, it left me feeling frightened and humiliated in my own country. An Asian man eventually came to my defence, telling the woman: “No one wants to hear your nonsense.”
I was shocked that this had taken place in London, arguably one of the most diverse cities in the world – but recent figures have shown that hate crimes against Muslims are on the rise here, increasing by 70% in the past year, according to the police. I asked Muslim people in my own circle if they could recount just one experience of abuse, and the answer was quite often yes.
What is being highlighted by this video and others (another has recently emerged, in which an elderly disabled Muslim is apparently verbally attacked by a young black man) is that these attacks do not always involve the stereotypical far-right white, male skinhead, but come, disturbingly, from a broader cross-section of society.
Yet Masud, from Buckinghamshire, believes that apart from members of groups like the English Defence League, British people are generally not prejudiced; rather they are genuinely afraid – and some politicians are choosing to stoke that fear rather than dissipate it. His main concern is the “casual Islamophobia” that becomes an acceptable, everyday part of conversation.