LONDON – April 3 2018, the day British Muslims realized we had (thankfully) been the subject of a sick prank. The dreaded “Punish A Muslim Day” flopped. Nothing bad happened.
Three weeks earlier, a few dozen idiotic printouts had been pushed through the letterboxes of Muslim homes in Birmingham, Leicester, London, and Sheffield. An unknown group or just a person with a sick sense of humor created a flyer offering imaginary ‘rewards’ to those who carried out attacks on Muslims.
‘Points’ would be awarded for acts including torture, burning down mosques, or throwing acid in peoples’ faces.
The notes themselves, in this era where any Muslim visible on social media, has been subjected to worse, might not have been such a big deal. Except those behind the hateful campaign also sent the notes, in envelopes filled with non-toxic white powder, to the House of Commons offices of five Muslim MP’s too.
The police have triggered a full anti-terror investigation.
Not worth our time or worry
But, it wasn’t the police who spread the panic. It was us, the Muslim community.
There were the fajr time pings from concerned mums, asking “are you sending your children to school tomorrow?” The shaky posts urging “stay safe everyone.”
Then, yesterday, alhamdulillah, nothing happened. Thanks to Al Wali (The Protecting Friend), community members nationwide were instead radicalized into showing opposition to such vile rhetoric.
The Primate of the Church in Wales, Archbishop John Davies, spoke out to condemn the threat of violence.
He encouraged Christians in Wales to take part in a community solidarity event organized by the Muslim Council of Wales (MCW) in Cardiff. Speaking ahead of the event he said that it and other similar gatherings would “enable right-thinking people to show their peaceful condemnation of prejudice and discrimination.”
Day of Solidarity
Stand Up To Racism organized 21 gatherings on a “Day of Solidarity”. The Manchester demo was held outside the Central Library. Locals from many walks of life held placards reading “Stand up to Islamophobia.”
Nahella Ashraf is NW regional activist with SUTR. She told AboutIslam ‘Punish a Muslim Day’ was now more than a failed campaign of violence.
“Would argue that not only did it ignite unity, it brought people onto the streets in support of Muslims that would not normally get involved in politics,” she said.
Somewhere, a skinhead is sobbing into a pint of real ale.
Matthew, who works at the Manchester Royal Infirmary, attended the city center demo with his two young sons.
“I think it’s vital we act and stand up against racism. It’s important that people are allowed to practice their faith safely be that Islam, Judaism or whatever it is. I am absolutely appalled at the threats proposed in the flyers. It is abhorrent to everyone in a decent society.”
In Newcastle, a human chain of almost a hundred people formed a ring around the Central Mosque. Tyne and Wear members of Citizens UK were standing in solidarity, spreading love, not hate.’
What about the reaction from the UK Ummah to the day of danger, transformed into a day of kindness?
Some parents, myself included, may have advised our daughters to conceal (but not remove) their hijab beneath a hat or a hoody. A common sense idea, which I personally link to the hadith where the Prophet SAWS urged ‘tying your camel.’ Namely, to take sensible precautions as a part of the process of having faith in Allah.
The believer takes all steps at our disposal towards a good result in any situation. Vitally, we combine this with trust in Allah and respect for His chosen outcome.
Dina Tokio is a fashion vlogger building a business via social media platforms. More than 300k subscribe to her YouTube channel.
The day before April 3, she tweeted:
“To my hijabi sisters, if you’re out and about tomorrow maybe think about swapping your scarf for a beanie or something. We have to be extra careful. Remind your friends and family. Stay safe.”
This inspired a heated debate with more than 200 comments. The tone began with a passionate yet polite suggestion from the respected Ustadha Fatima Barkatullah.
“A beanie is not hijab. And sister, you are not qualified as a scholar to give fatwa to sisters to compromise on their religion because of some idiotic hoax letter. If a person feels genuine fear & it isn’t necessary to go out, it would be better to stay in than to uncover!”
This conversation quickly dissolved as others became impassioned creating the usual social media “wrong” versus “right” argumentation.
So what have we learned? Here’s a suggested checklist for the next time some group of ‘lone wolf’ tries to frighten us with nasty flyers or online threats.
- Do not spread posts that inspire fear. They make us spend our days in a vacuum of unhappiness.
- Think before suggesting or approving an action. The Muslim ‘strike’ briefly suggested would have backfired spectacularly, causing far more impact and damage than a few nasty flyers.
- Check your sources: Videos of old acid attacks, rumors of Somali girls being pushed in front of Underground trains all made the rounds. Where were they from, were they real, did you check before you tapped ‘RT’?
- Support Muslim groups making a difference. An officer with the campaign group Mend created a ‘Love a Muslim Day’ flyer which spread a great deal of positivity and inspired other good ideas. https://mend.org.uk/
- Join wider interest groups like Stand Up To Racism or Hope Not Hate to be part of caring for wider society too.
Without the millions of social media ‘shares’ from Muslims, and the arguments we managed to have with each other about the ‘right’ way of dressing, ‘Punish A Muslim Day’ would have remained a non-event.
Yet something good did come from it says Sister Nahella.
“It has forced the media to talk about the issue of Islamophobia,” she said.
More than that it has created bonds of unity that remind us our neighbors and colleagues, trade unionists and fellow Brits, will gather behind the banner of ‘love’ to dispel hate.