by Eleanor Beevor
- A disturbing wave of hate crimes have swept the U.K.
- British Muslims have received anonymous “Punish a Muslim Day” letters
- The letters provided a series of suggested punishments with a point system
- New measures to tackle hate crimes are necessary
Britain has seen shocking rises in hate crimes since the EU Referendum. Grim statistics, such as a 62% increase in incidents of hate crimes in schools or colleges since 2016, are increasingly coming to light. But in the second week of March, a particularly chilling hate crime has demonstrated just how far some individuals are prepared to go to make people feel threatened.
A number of letters, (apparently reaching “double figures”), were sent to addresses around the U.K., which were seemingly announcing “Punish a Muslim Day” on April 3rd.
The letters were anonymous, delivered in plain envelopes with second class stamps. The letter itself said that “They have hurt you, they have made your loved ones suffer” and that “white majority nations” are turning into “Sharia led police states.”
Below that was a table of various “punishments” that could be inflicted on Muslims, with “points” for each one. Verbal abuse was the lowest scoring category, and the “punishments” got more disturbing as points rose, to include acid attacks, torture and murder.
The letters appear to have been concentrated in both the city of Bradford in Yorkshire, in the Midlands and also in parts of east London. Leicester, Sheffield and Birmingham residents have also reportedly received some. However, a number of them were mailed directly to Muslim recipients, including to the office of a local councillor in Bradford.
It would thus appear that this is a move designed to instil fear in Muslim communities as much as it purports to be advertising the day. The London Metropolitan Police as well as the Counter Terrorism Policing in the North East are now working on the case, and have assured the public that they are taking the threat seriously.
Not the first time?
Saying no to Islamophobia. A woman writes a message on a banner hanging outside of Finsbury Park Mosque, in London. (AFP/File)
Tell MAMA, a charity that monitors hate crimes against Muslims, has speculated that the person behind the letters may have made similar threats before.
Anonymous letters, with the alias “Muslim Slayer” were sent to a number of mosques in 2017, not only in the U.K. but in America as well. The letters warned that the author would be “coming to your mosque to make you vermin pay,” and featured crudely drawn skulls and crossbones, as well as other offensive pictures.
These letters, like those featuring “Punish a Muslim Day,” were sent with second class stamps and featured a Sheffield postmark, meaning that they were sorted at a Sheffield distribution office.
Both sets of letters also feature an image of a sword and the letters “MS” nearby it, although the more recent letters have printed graphics rather than hand-drawn images. The letter also featured, strangely, Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals (HMCTS) address in London, in a box below the text that directed people there for further information. HMCTS has tweeted confirmation that they have no involvement in the letter.
Strong reaction, but not enough action
British police officers are pictured at a demonstration organized by the far-right group the English Defense League (EDL) in central London on June 24, 2017. (AFP/FILE)
The letters have drawn strong condemnations from Members of Parliament from all parties, and other religious communities have affirmed their solidarity with British Muslims and condemned the letters.
Both Chief Rabbi Mirvis and the Church of England’s Director of Interfaith Relations have urged renewed efforts to counter these prejudices. It has also prompted calls for a renewal of the government’s Hate Crime Action Plan.
Police investigations are ongoing. However, even if Tell MAMA’s suspicions that the same perpetrator is behind the two sets of letters, anti-Muslim hate crime in the U.K. is a widespread phenomenon.
The Government has acknowledged that it must do more to protect potential victims of hate crime. What new solutions it can offer, and whether they will go far enough, remains to be seen.
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