Punish a Muslim Day: UK cities stand together in the face of Islamophobic threat

Defiance follows circulation of letters suggesting ways to hurt Muslims on April 3

'Punish a Muslim Day' urged attacks on Muslim communities
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Communities across the UK are bracing themselves for Punish a Muslim Day after letters were sent out calling for violence against Muslims on April 3.

Last month, letters were circulated by post in major cities and on social media suggesting ways to hurt people and awarding points for certain "punishments".

The letters, which are being investigated by British counter-terrorism police, appear to be in response to ISIL-inspired attacks, four of which took place in the UK in 2017.

"They have hurt you. They have made your loved ones suffer. They have caused you pain and heartache. What are you going to about it?" read one of the letters which was circulated online.

The Saudi Embassy in London said it had been in contact with the British authorities about the contents of the letter and advised its citizens in the UK to exercise caution and vigilance.

In the city of Leicester, where Muslims make up 20 per cent of the population, fears of attacks are high. Last week, Paul Moore, 21, was sentenced to a minimum of 20 years in prison for attempted murder after he attacked a woman and a 12-year-old girl wearing Islamic clothing.

Leicestershire Police have said they will be ready to take action on April 3 if Muslims feel threatened.

"We have operational plans in place should anything happen on what will hopefully be an ordinary day," Chief Constable Simon Cole said last week.

“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 take hate crime seriously, and I hope the conviction and sentence of Paul Moore yesterday proves that.”

In February, Darren Osborne, a 48-year-old, was sentenced to life imprisonment for attacking worshippers outside Finsbury Park Mosque in London last year. Osborne killed one man and injured 12 others after he drove a van into pedestrians outside the mosque who had attended nighttime prayers during Ramadan. A handwritten note was found in the van, which referred to Muslims as "feral" and lambasted London's Muslim mayor, Sadiq Khan.

Metropolitan Police said they were aware of concerns following the Punish a Muslim Day letters but that there was no credible information to suggest criminal activity would take place.

However, the Met urged anyone with any information about hate crime to contact them immediately.

The National Police Chiefs Association released a statement on Thursday about the letters, assuring the public that threats were being taken seriously and that it had taken measures to stop people becoming victims of crime.

Meanwhile, community leaders across the country have called for unity in the face of the threat.

In Nottingham, one of the cities where letters were circulated, 28 Muslim groups endorsed a statement asking citizens “to make a conscious effort to counter such hate by supporting the Muslim community on April 3”.

"An attack on any part of our community is an attack on us all. Our vision like everyone else, is to live in a society that is compassionate, kind and committed to justice and peace,” the statement read.

In Leicester, a community group has organised an event in defiance of Punish a Muslim Day.

St Matthew's Big Local will be holding a day of celebration for Muslims and non-Muslims alike on April 3, with activities including story-telling, face painting and a walking bus march.

St Matthew's wrote on Twitter: “We are bringing our community together on Tuesday as our diversity is our strength.”