LEICESTER – Showing support to the Muslim community, a Leicester group will be hosting a community event on April 3 in defiance of “Punish a Muslim” day letters.
“These letters are designed to frighten people, to make them hide away,” Barbara Grant-Bennett, the St Matthew’s Big Local community development manager, told Leicester Mercury.
“We have a weekly women’s group – mainly Muslim women – and some of them have been very frightened by this thing. They say they do not want to leave their houses.
“Well, we are not having that. We are not going to have people recoiling in fear. We are going to get families out to have a jolly good time in defiance of these letters.”
The celebration, planned by St Matthew’s Big Local, will be attended by Muslims and members of all other communities on Tuesday, April 3.
It was organized to counter Punish A Muslim Day, where offensive leaflets offering points for committing violent acts against Muslims on that day were circulated around the country.
St Matthew’s has large Somali Muslim community.
During the event, Grant-Bennett said there would be story-telling, face painting and other fun activities as well as a ‘walking bus march’.
Despite the support, many Muslims are concerned about the nature of the letters sent to many individuals.
“The FMO is aware of these letters being delivered to some individuals,” Suleman Nagdi, spokesman for the Leicestershire Federation of Muslim Organizations (FMO), said.
“The letters advocate for people to carry out indiscriminate abuse and attacks against Muslims, at the same time disguising it as some form of a game.
“We at the FMO are deeply concerned at the nature of the letters which is designed to incite hate and violence against Muslims.”
Nagdi confirmed that the Muslim community was cooperating with police forces to assure safety.
“We would like to reassure the local public that we are working closely with the police and are requesting anyone who receives the letters to avoid handling it more than required as vital evidence could be retrieved and to pass the letters to the police,” he said.
“We ask people to remain vigilant but at the same time not to allow the perpetrators to cause unnecessary panic.
“We have every confidence in our police service, that they will do whatever it takes to protect us.
“The police are looking at the full scale of the distribution as this clearly constitutes an offense.”
Leicestershire Police has said it is prepared for any trouble emanating from ‘Punish a Muslim’ day.
“We have operational plans in place should anything happen on what will hopefully be an ordinary day,” Chief Constable Simon Cole said.
“It is particularly distasteful and unpleasant and I almost don’t want to talk about it in case of dignifying it and making it something it isn’t.
“We work in a place that’s cohesive and we feel as though we are a part of that community.”
Leicester is not the first city to plan events supporting Muslims next April 3.