SHAFAQNA – Muslims in Manchester have told the MEN they are reeling from a ‘new kind of hatred’ on an unprecedented scale in the wake of the city’s terrorist attack.
Incidents of Islamophobia rocketed in the wake of the Manchester Arena bombing last month.
One cleric said the community is experiencing a level of hostility it has never seen before.
Mosque leaders have ramped up security, while Didsbury Mosque – where Salman Abedi is known to have worshipped – hired a security guard to offer reassurance to worshippers attending prayers.
Tensions escalated further during a rally in the city centre earlier this month.
Eight people were arrested during the United Against Hate protest, led by former-English Defence League (EDL) leader Tommy Robinson.
Rusholme Councillor Rabnawaz Akbar described the hatred displayed towards Muslims during the event as ‘vile and evil’.
“Last week’s demonstration shocked a lot of people,” he said. “I was there and the rhetoric I heard I have never heard here in Manchester before and I have lived through the National Front.
“It was so vile and evil. I’ve never heard that in my life and I certainly never thought I would hear that on British streets.
“For example I heard somebody say: ‘the only good Muslim is a dead Muslim’.
“A lot of Muslims are feeling the same way. We can’t have this constant cycle of hate.”
Just five days after Dad-of-two Sheraz Khan suffered horrendous cuts to his arm after two thugs tried to smash a glass bottle over his head, five d
The dad of two, 30, was driving through Crumpsall when two men shouted that he had a flat tyre.
But when he pulled over one of the men said: “only joking, you’re a f***in terrorist bomber, you” before smashing the glass onto his arm.
“It was a trap. I thought they were trying to help me. They seemed genuine.
“I collapsed on the floor and a little boy came and gave me some water. I managed to drive myself to hospital.
“My hand was really bad, bleeding everywhere, and if I hadn’t put my arm up they would have got my face.”
Sheraz, who personally knew one of the people killed in the Arena bombing atrocity, said he was horrified at being branded a ‘terrorist’.
“I feel traumatised,” he said. “I’m nothing like that. You can’t just judge every Muslim to be a terrorist.”
Despite his shocking ordeal, Sheraz decided not to report the incident to police as he believed ‘nothing would come of it’.
He said: “I feel like there’s no point. There are no cameras on that street and I didn’t know the men.”
Coun Akbar told the M.E.N that he has even been told of Islamaphobic hatred directed towards Sikhs and Hindus.
Surgeon Naveed Yasin, who spent 48 hours saving the lives of people caught up in the attack, was also branded a terrorist in the wake of the atrocity.
As the medic drove back to Salford Royal Hospital to help more victims, a thug in a van called him a “brown, P*** b******” and said: “Go back to your country, you terrorist. We don’t want you people here. F*** off!”
Dobir Miah, chief officer for the Rochdale Council of Mosques, said security at many local mosques has been stepped up since the Manchester Arena terror attack.
He says more volunteer stewards have been enlisted to ‘keep a close eye’ on the congregations.
“Most faith organisations are run on a shoestring budget so they don’t need any unnecessary hassles and costs,” he said.
“Mosques are open public spaces anyone can go in.”
Mr Miah said many Muslims were left ‘concerned and alarmed’ following the attack at a Finsbury Park mosque in London last week.
He added: “That shows we are experiencing a new kind of hatred.”
Muslim women talk about their shocking experiences
Muslim women have described their alarming experiences in the wake of the Manchester terror attack.
The MEN has been told of one shocking incident where a female student was spat at and called a ‘terrorist’ as she left a coffee shop in the city centre.
And Saima Alvi, vice chair of the British Muslim Heritage Association, said she felt compelled to warn her daughters not to walk alone after the Arena atrocity.
The mum-of-four, from Altrincham, said: “I rang one daughter in Lancaster who is a student and told her not to walk around the campus. I said there could be some kind of revenge attack.
“I told her not to take back routes and just to go straight to lectures.”
Teacher Saima also asked her 16-year-old daughter, Maymuna, not to use the tram because she was worried about how people would react to her.
“When she did get the tram she said ‘mum, everybody seemed to be looking at me’.
“Every time you hear ‘attack’ on the news I think ‘is it a Muslim name’? First you feel sad for the victims, then I think about my family and how it will impact on us. It’s an awful thing and something I’m not very comfortable with.”
Maymuna told the MEN how anxious she felt sitting on a tram on her way to school two days after the attack.
She said: “I get the metro every day but this time when I got on I noticed a lot of unusual looks, frightened faces and a lot of people looking at me because I was the only one on the tram wearing a headscarf.
“I saw a girl from one of my classes and she looked at me and she got up and stood with me throughout the whole tram journey and stayed with me throughout the whole time. Then when we got off the Metro she met her boyfriend at the other end and she asked me if I wanted to walk with them.”
Hulme councillor Amina Lone says women who wear a hijab, niqab or a burka are ‘of course’ easier to target.
“If you’re wearing a headscarf then absolutely you are more visible and they are very much a target for hate crime,” she said.
“My experience is that Muslim women are targeted first definitely.”
A 14 year old girl was targeted on her way to school when a passer by shouted: ‘When are you going to stop bombing people?’
The pupil at Manchester Islamic High School for Girls suffered the vile abuse just days after the Manchester Arena attack.
Headteacher Mona Mohamed told Radio 4’s Today programme that the teenager was “very upset and hurt” but chose to keep quiet as advised by the school.
“What’s the point of reacting?” she said.
“That’s not the way we’re going to tackle terrorism. Terrorism is not part of Islam. We’re Muslim and to us Islam is peaceful.”
Sondes Malek, a British Libyan teacher at the school, stressed that most pupils have enjoyed a lot of support from non Muslims.
Several young pupils handed out flowers to shoppers in Chorlton in response to the attack and held a collection for the families affected.
Sondes said: “The reaction from the public was very nice and supportive.
“Although I think there has been a rise in hate crime, there are also good stories from Manchester of people defending Muslims.”
“The majority of people live peacefully side by side”
A councillor says the rise in Islamophobia in no way reflects the feelings and actions of most Mancunians.
Amina Lone says the spike is upsetting but not truly representative of the feeling in the city.
“The majority of people live peacefully side by side and we know that is true in Manchester.
“I’ve been really impressed by the solidarity we have seen with people after the attack in Manchester – from taxi drivers helping people, restaurant owners bringing food and people leaving flowers. It’s been overwhelming.
“People are saying these acts are not in our name, we will not let it divide our community and we’re better than that.”
Coun Lone, of the Manchester-based think-tank Social Action and Research Foundation, said there was a similar spike in hate crime figures immediately after the EU referendum.
She said: “It’s not just Islamophobia – anti-Semitism is also on the increase. Jewish people are targeted disproportionately.
“There is a feeling across the board of everybody feeling tense and nervous.
“My feeling is there is a difference between perception and reality.
“The times we are living in are really unpredictable. But I really believe we need to get it in perspective.”
She added: “We can’t pretend that racism and Islamophobia doesn’t happen but I don’t want people to feel that where we live isn’t safe. Where we live is remarkably safe compared to so many places in the world.”
Police urge people to report hate crime
Police chiefs and community leaders have urged anyone who experiences hate crime, in any shape or form, to report it.
Though hate crime often goes unreported for a variety of reasons nobody should tolerate hatred and abuse.
Anyone who experiences hate crime, or witnesses it, can report it to a number of agencies.
If you don’t feel comfortable speaking to the police, Islamaphobia can be reported to charity TellMAMA on 0800 4561226. A number of non-police centres which allow people to report incidents in complete confidence is available at:.