UK Islamophobia victim urges Muslims to report hate crimes – Middle East Monitor
On a busy street in central London, *S hurried to catch an underground train back home after a long day at work. For many years, this was her routine, and on that cold night in February 2019, she did not expect any change.
That evening, however, her pride in being able to move freely as a practicing Muslim woman was shattered when a man at the train station pulled her headscarf and then assaulted her.
As the UN marks the first ever International Day to Combat Islamophobia on March 15, *S, a British Muslim, spoke to Anadolu about the attack she received and the racism she suffered over her religious beliefs.
That particular night, when she was at St James’s Park station in London, a man approached her from behind and stood very close to her. Uncomfortable, she moved to put distance between herself and the man, but he blocked her way and swore at her, then pulled her hijab and pushed her down to the floor, where she slammed her head on the hard tiles.
“I stayed on the floor in shock; I didn’t realize what happened. I didn’t know I hurt my head. I didn’t know I was bleeding,” she said, reciting on the traumatic incident online. interview in which she asked to remain anonymous to protect her privacy.
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A bystander helped her back to her feet, as the attacker fled the scene. The police later arrived to whom the crime was reported, along with an ambulance, where the cut on her forehead was cleaned and dressed.
A British citizen with Asian roots, *S said this was the second Islamophobic attack she had come across in three months. In November 2018, she was on her way to work in south-west London when a woman hit her in a car. “Excuse me, girl in the yellow scarf …” she said, before swearing at her and her faith, and before shooting.
*S says the incident left her shaken. “Not only was I upset about what the woman said, but (there were) people around her who were staring and laughing. I was embarrassed and humiliated. People should find it despicable.”
When her employer confirmed, she reported the incident to the police, who deemed it a hate crime. These were not the only abuses that *S faced for being Muslims. She also had school children targeting her, calling her “bloody terrorist” or “you ninja”.
Because of such incidents she realized the need to be careful against the daily risk of Islamophobia. “There are a lot of people who hate a lot, and people think it’s okay to hate Muslims. I realized that I can be attacked too. I have to be more careful. I can’t be as careless as I used to be. be.”
Sympathizing with her fellow victims,* S said: “It’s so unfortunate, and I feel sorry for anyone who experiences it. Statistically, women experience Islamophobia much more because they have a visual representation through their headscarves .”
According to Home Office statistics, around 3,459 Muslims were the subject of religious hate crimes in Britain during 2021-2022, making them the highest number of people — around 42 percent — to have been persecuted because of their faith. In London, hate crimes have soared, with an increase of 188 per cent from 2012-2013, according to the police. The highest number of Islamophobic hate crimes occurred in 2017-2018, when 1,667 occurred.
Since then, the police reported an annual decrease of 50 percent in the number of incidents until 2021-2022, when they shot up 20 percent in one year.
READ: We cannot begin to defeat authoritarianism without first tackling Islamophobia
Brief removal of hijab
After both incidents, *S decided not to cover her head for a short time, as she was afraid of attacks and discrimination.
“I felt that I would be safer if I took off my hijab. So, for a small period in my life, unfortunately, I took off the hijab. And putting it on, in the first place, it was so difficult for me. So, making it feel so painful that I worked (for) something so hard but, because of unjustified Islamophobic events, I felt that my safety was important.”
The result of this decision was a psychological mess, she said. “I was afraid for my safety, I was afraid for my well-being. I was afraid, as a Muslim, that I failed to take off my hijab.” It was during this time that she realized, with anger, that she could not hide her identity.
During the COVID pandemic, she found the courage to, once again, cover her hair. She felt safer since she worked from home during that time.
Today, as she covers her head, she feels more confident and more aware of how to tackle hate crimes. “I feel like I’m a little bit braver again, and that I can speak up. I’m very aware. People are racist but you have to live your life as long as you can.”
For anyone who comes across incidents of Islamophobia, *S strongly advises them to report cases to the police. This applies not only to physical attacks, but also to verbal abuse.
“It is a very unfortunate situation. Therefore, you must report it. Even if it is the most subtle of the things and you are not physically harmed, if someone has emotionally abused you, yes someone did something inappropriate in front of you to make you. I feel this is an Islamophobic hate crime, please report it.”
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.