3rd April 2018 Continues on page 7 Be watchful
Nation special report
LONDON: Police have launched an investigation after letters were posted to Muslims’ homes in the UK apparently calling for them to be killed and mosques to burnt down in a day of hate. The leaflets advertise a day in April called “Punish a Muslim” day, where people are encouraged to torture Muslims, carry out acid attacks and set fire to mosques.
Though the situation is not very alarming but people are advised to beware and be careful. The hate-filled letters promised “rewards” to people who carry out the instructions, which range from verbal abuse, pulling off hijabs and even murder.
“Pulling a Muslim women’s hijab is worth 25 points, an acid attack earns 50 points and burning or bombing a mosque will see the attacker collect 1,000 points,” the letter read. UK police forces have begun investigating the posts, which were scattered across the Midlands, West Yorkshire, and London. “The MPS does not tolerate any form of hate crime. If anyone believes they have been a victim of such an offense we would encourage them to report it to police so it can be fully investigated , ” said a spokesman for the Metropolitan Police. Families living in London have reportedly received anonymous letters containing hate material targeting Muslims.
The Muslim population living in London believes that this is a part of a larger campaign of hate against the Muslim community. According to authorities, at least six communities around the United Kingdom have received the letters, which are being investigated by the country’s counterterrorism forces.
Two people have been taken to hospital as a “precaution” after a “suspicious package” was reportedly delivered to an MP’s Westminster office. It was sent to the office of Mohammad Yasin, who was elected as the Labour MP for Bedford at the 2017 snap general election.
Two people – a man and a woman – have been taken to a central London hospital as a “precaution,” The Independent reports citing London’s Metropolitan Police as saying. A suspicious substance was investigated by the Met Police and was found not to be hazardous,” a spokesman for Parliament said in a statement.
The affected area was temporarily cordoned off but no evacuation was necessary,” the police added. The temporary cordon has now been removed and a police investigation is underway, according to the reports.
According to reports, four packages containing suspicious substances and vile Islamophobic letters have been sent to Muslim MPs in Parliament in 24 hours. Rupa Huq, Labour MP for Ealing Central and Acton, said she was the latest target on Monday, while another package was said to have been sent to Muslim Labour MP Afzal Khan.
It came after packages were sent to Mohammad Yasin, Labour MP for Bedford, and Bethnal Green and Bow MP Rushanara Ali on Monday. Ms Huq told reporters that a package containing a sticky liquid and a ‘Punish a Muslim’letter was sent to her West minster office on Tuesday. A Parliamentary worker who opened the letter was taken to hospital as a precaution. Scotland Yard said specialist officers were on the scene to assess the contents of the package and another suspicious parcel w h i c h w a s also delivered to the Norman Shaw Building in Westminster at the same time.
Two packages were sent to the same building in Parliament on Monday after noon. Two members of Mr Yasin’s team were taken to hospital after opening a package containing a suspicious liquid. Ms Huq told the BBC that the parcels are now “part of a pattern”. She said her staff member who opened the post this morning had gone to hospital to be checked over as a precaution after getting the liquid on their hands. Ms Huq said: “It’s worrying that these things are getting through security screening because I know it’s very vigorously screened. “Someone out there thinks it’s open season on Muslims.”
Both of the packages delivered on Monday afternoon were found to be non-harmful.
A Met Police statement said on Tuesday: “Police were called at 9.49am on Tuesday, 13 March to reports of a suspicious package at Norman Shaw Buildings, Victoria Embankment, Westminster. Specialist officers are on scene and the package is being assessed.
“The London Ambulance Service are on scene. A man has been taken to hospital as a precaution. “No evacuation has taken place. A second package at the same location is also being assessed.” Labour David Lammy MP tweeted: “I am absolutely appalled and horrified to hear reports that a number of my Labour colleagues are receiving ‘Punish a Muslim’ letters, hate mail and suspicious packages. As Chair of the Race All Party Parliamentary Group Istand in solidarity with them and their hard-working staff.” Counter-terrorism officers are investigating after the offensive messages were sent to a string of locations across the country with five police forces –West Yorkshire, SouthYorkshire, Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire and the Metropolitan Police – all receiving reports.
Safety of Muslims
The government has promised tough action against hate crimes but has rejected calls for a legal definition of‘Islamophobia’, following the discovery of threatening letters sent out to Muslims in London and beyond.
The letters are currently under investigation by the police. “This government wants to give a strong message to Muslim people across this country… we are committed to their safety and security,” said Victoria Atkins, a Home Office Minister, in Parliament following an urgent question from Labour MP Yasmin Qureshi in Parliament calling for clarity on the government’s strategy for tackling the rising issue of Islamophobia. Ms. Atkins said that letters such as those sent at the weekend would be treated with the “utmost seriousness”. “The issue of anti Muslim and far-right extremism is a focus for the government,” she said, pointing to the government’s anti-radicalisation programme, Prevent, which she said did not focus just on Islamic radicalisation but other forms of extremism, including of the far right. However she rejected the suggestion from Conservative backbencher Anna Soubry that a legal definition of ‘Islamophobia’ was needed to tackle what Ms. Soubry described as an “act of incitement to terrorism”.
Tell MAMA UK
The Islamophobia monitoring charity Tell MAMAUK reported over the weekend that it was working with police after receiving reports of an offensive letter being sent to Muslims in London, the Midlands and Yorkshire. The letters refer to a reward system — from 10 points for verbally abusing a Muslim to 100 points for beating up a Muslim. “We take religious hatred extremely seriously and my officers will be carrying out a full and thorough investigation in response to these reports,” said Martin Snowden, head of counterterrorism policing in North East England. Other police forces across the country called on any of those impacted to contact police forces or charities.
The letters come amid rising concern about Islamphobia and attacks on Muslims in the U.K. Figures published by the Mayor’s office in London last month revealed a 40% rise in anti-Muslim hate crime in the year to January. Last week, the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee wrote to Google, questioning why material from the far-right anti-Muslim group National Action continued to be hosted on YouTube, despite promises that it would be removed.
Mayor Sadiq Khan
London Mayor Sadiq Khan has read out racist tweets sent to him in a powerful video to highlight the extent of vile abuse Muslim people receive online.
The Mayor of London shared the clip detailing the level of online abuse sent to him by trolls with his 900K Twitter followers. He begins with mildly offensive messages before moving on to serious racial slurs. Reading one message, Mr Khan says: “AmIthe only one who thinks Sadiq Khan looks like a pigeon?” He then jokes: “I really don’t think that’s true, more like a silver fox, no?” The mayor then reads out comparisons to a sparrow and “a really s*** stunt double for Jose Mourinho.” Sharing a more shocking tirade, the mayor says: “I say KILL the Mayor of London and you will be rid of ONE Muslim terrorist.” He goes on: “Muslims need to be shot or hanged. The mayoris doing nothing about attacks.” And adds: “Muslims have no dignity. I wish Sadiq Khan would just blow himself up like they all do. He might get his 12 virgins. “As Mayor of London, I wish someone would build a fire and throw you on it, you useless sack of s***.” The Mayor explains he is not sharing the messages to “be portrayed as a victim”. He says: “I worry about what happens when young boys and girls from minority backgrounds see this kind of thing on their social media timelines or experience it themselves.
“Platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have brought huge benefits to society but also, significant challenges.” The clip came after Mr Khan shared details of the abuse during a speech at the SXSW conference in the US. The London mayor read out shocking messages at the South by Southwest conference in Austin,Texas, as he demanded action from social media firms to tackle hate speech.
Bradford Cllr Riaz
Councillor Riaz Ahmed (Lib Dem, Bradford Moor) said he received the letter to his business address in Leeds Road this morning. “It was not addressed to anyone, just the address and postcode as if it was sent out randomly. It has a second class stamp on the plain white envelope and the frank mark is Sheffield. It was posted yesterday,” he said. “It seems strange that anyone would send something like this to an address in a predominantly Muslim area. When I opened it and saw the content I was horrified.” The letter is headed ‘Punish a Muslim day, 3rd April, 2018’. Cllr Ahmed said: “It goes on to ask if you are a sheep and ‘are allowing the white majority nations of Europe and North America to become overrun by those who would like nothing more than to do us harm and turn our democracies into Sharia led police states’.
In a Facebook post, Naz Shah MP wrote that members of her community are very distressed. “I would appeal to the wider community to remain vigilant and report any suspicious activity to the police,” she wrote. It’s not clear who sent the letters or what they’re trying to accomplish. It seems, though, that the writers targeted predominantly Muslim communities. Muslims living there believe that Islamophobia is already at high and worrisome levels in the UK. People in Bradford and in other parts of the country have received very disturbing hate mail titled “Punish a Muslim”.
Understandably, this is very distressful not only those who have received the letter but also for the wider communities. I have spoken with The Chief Officer Lead for Counter Terrorism Policing North East, Assistant Chief Constable Russ Foster, who has outlined that the investigation which has identified what appears to be a linked series of offences is being coordinated nationally by Counter Terrorism Policing North East. ACC Foster has provided reassurance that a thorough and professional investigation is well underway and urges any further victims receiving any such communication to report the matter to the police via the 101 number, unless they perceive an immediate threat to their lives then they should contact the police immediately via the 999 emergency number. “I would appeal to the wider community to remain vigilant and report any suspicious activity to the police. Naz Shah went to say.