'Punish a Muslim Day' letters in UK prompt terror investigation

Published: March 13, 2018
At least six communities have reported receiving anonymous letters encouraging people to act violently towards Muslims. PHOTO: AFP/File

At least six communities have reported receiving anonymous letters encouraging people to act violently towards Muslims. PHOTO: AFP/File

At least six communities in England reported receiving anonymous letters enclosed in white envelopes with messages calling for a “Punish a Muslim Day”.

The envelopes carried second-class stamps with the content of the letters alarming enough to prompt a national counter-terrorism investigation.

The North East Counter Terrorism Unit said in a statement that it had received reports of “potentially malicious communications sent to individuals across the UK,” and has asked victims to contact their local police.

In the letter, it called on for UK citizens to observe “Punish a Muslim Day” on April 3. The letter further lists violent acts that people can perform targeting anybody they think is a follower of Islam; each action comes with a set of points a perpetrator would collect after they commit the said “punishment”.

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These hateful actions include, for example, pulling off a woman’s headscarf for 25 points as well as out-rightly calling for a Muslim’s murder for 500 points.

Other violent “punishments” include butchering, electrocuting Muslims and bombing mosques.

The letter added April 3 would be a day to “help turn things around” for Western Europe with these violent attacks.

“Are you a sheep like the vast majority of the population? Sheep follow orders and are easily led,” it says. “They are allowing the white-majority nations of Europe and North America to become overrun by those who would like nothing more than to do us harm and to turn our democracies into sharia-led police states.”

People in Birmingham, Cardiff, Leicester, London and Sheffield reported receiving the letter, according to the authorities, a member of Parliament and Tell Mama, an organisation that monitors anti-Muslim activity.

“This has caused quite a lot of fear within the community,” Iman Atta, the director of Tell Mama, told the local news media. “They are asking if they are safe, if their children are safe to play outdoors. We have told them to keep calm.”

While Muslim communities continue to experience a climate of fear, support has been pouring in.

An anti-Islamophobia nonprofit called MEND launched a counter campaign, calling citizens for an active participation to observe April 3 as a “Love a Muslim Day”.

The organisation is circulating letters that list actions with a point-based system, encouraging people to making gestures that might help ease the heightened sense of fear and defense Muslim communities may be experiencing.

Assistant Chief Constable Angela Williams of the West Yorkshire police said in a statement, “We want to reassure our communities that these communications are being taken extremely seriously.”

She said, “I would urge our communities to be vigilant but not frightened,” adding, “We are stronger when we stand together as one and will not be divided. #WeStandTogether.”

The assistant chief constable of South Yorkshire police, Tim Forber, also lent his support and said, “These communications are extremely distressing and we appreciate that members of our communities will be very concerned.

“I can assure you that these documents are being taken extremely seriously and a thorough investigation into the circumstances is under way.

“Hate crime in any form will not be tolerated and we will work with our communities and alongside our colleagues in the counter-terrorism unit to ensure that those spreading fear and hatred will be brought to justice.”

This article originally appeared in The New York Times and The Guardian.

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