As four UK MPs receive ‘Punish a Muslim day’ packages, the Home Office says a definitive definition of Islamophobia is not needed

Suspicious packages sent to four Muslim MPs have been linked to the ‘Punish a Muslim day’ letter campaign, which was circulated last weekend (9-11th March). The “potentially malicious communications” are being investigated by counter-terror police[1].

The packages was later found to be non-hazardous but two people were taken to hospital as a precaution as specialist police officers and paramedics responded to the incidents[2].

One of those to receive a package, the Ealing Central and Acton MP, Rupa Huq, said “it’s really very frightening … It is to put the frighteners on us but we won’t be cowed. I’m sure I won’t be the last and I’m sure this is part of a pattern of targeting Muslim MPs. Among my colleagues, people have shown support but they are outraged”[3].

The director of TellMama, Iman Atta, said that the campaign has caused fear within the Muslim community. He said, “This has caused quite a lot of fear within the community … They are asking if they are safe, if their children are safe to play outdoors. We have told them to keep calm”. The Metropolitan Police of London and other officials have warned people to be vigilant following the threats and to report any suspicious activity to the police[4].

Prime Minister Theresa May’s spokesman said Downing Street is concerned by the reports; “The prime minister is clear there is no space for racism, intimidation or extremism in the country or in parliament, so of course the reports are concerning … The police are investigating this and it’s right we let them do so”[5].

Labour MP Yasim Qureshi raised the issue of the Islamophobic campaign with the House of Commons, with the Home Office minister, Victoria Atkins, telling MPs in response that the Government “condemns the content of the letters as clearly abhorrent, with no place in decent society”[6]. She said, “This government wants to give a strong message to Muslim people across this country … we are committed to their safety and security”[7].

She added, “The issue of anti Muslim and far-right extremism is a focus for the government”, pointing to Prevent, the government’s anti-radicalisation programme, to illustrate this[8].

During the debate, Conservative MP Anna Soubry called for the need for a “proper legal definition of Islamophobia” in order to tackle what she described as, not a hate crime, but a blatant “act of incitement to terrorism”. However, Atkins replied, “We do not accept the need for a definitive definition, but we know that Islamophobia is clearly recognised and that we have very effective monitoring of race-hate crimes”[9].

[1] Heffer, 2018.

[2] Heffer, 2018.

[3] Elgot, 2018.

[4] Joseph, 2018.

[5] Elgot, 2018.

[6] Heffer, 2018.

[7] Ram, 2018.

[8] Ram, 2018.

[9] Heffer, 2018; Ram, 2018; MEND Community, 2018.

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Elgot, J. (2018) ‘Four Muslim MPs receive suspicious packages at Westminster’. [online] 13 March. [Accessed 14 March 2018].

Heffer, G. (2018) ‘Suspicious package sent to Labour MP linked to ‘Punish a Muslim day’. [online] 13 March. [Accessed 14 March 2018].

Joseph, Y. (2018) ‘’Punish a Muslim Day’ Letters Rattle U.K. Communities’. [online] 11 March. [Accessed 14 March 2018].

MEND Community. (2018) Tweet. [Accessed 14 March 2018].

Ram, V. (2018) “U.K. committed to safety of Muslims”. [online] 13 March. [Accessed 14 March 2018].