After the murder of 75 year-old Mohammed Saleem in Birmingham, people came together for a vigil. Credit: ITV.
On June 4, a mosque and Islamic cultural center in Muswell Hill, North London was burned to the ground. The letters ‘EDL’, the acronym of the anti-Muslim group English Defense League, were found graffitied on a nearby wall. Hours after the news broke, EDL members took to Facebook with comments such as “Burn them all”, “love it!!” and “shoulda been full.”
The mosque’s community responded to this devastating act of violence with grace. Center committee member Sayed Bana, 60, said, “To the perpetrators of this attack I say, forget about what you are doing and come join us in a dialogue and let’s move forward to a future without violence. I’m not angry at those behind the attack, I feel sad for them.”
The “dinner table test”
Long before the Woolwich murder, anti-Muslim incidents were common in the UK. In a January 2013 speech Baroness Syeeda Warsi, Minister for Faith and Communities, reported new figures stating that 50-60 percent of religious hate crimes in the UK target Muslims. She is often quoted as saying that anti-Muslim prejudice had passed the “dinner table test,” meaning that anti-Muslim sentiment is so common in the UK today that it has become an acceptable topic of conversation at a dinner party.
The pervasiveness of anti-Muslim sentiment has serious consequences for the UK’s Muslim population, who are frequently targeted by hate attacks. Tell MAMA’s statistics for 2012-13 suggest that women, particularly women who wear the hijab or niqab, are most likely to be victimized by street attacks. Taxi drivers are also at a high risk of being targeted.
Mughal told Not In Our Town that it was important for non-Muslims to support their Muslim neighbors, and let those who are victimized know that there are people outside the Muslim community who care about them.