From mid-march, a series of anonymous letters began arriving through the letterboxes of Muslims across the United Kingdom: in the cities of Birmingham, Bradford, Cardiff, Leicester, London and Sheffield. Declaring 3rd April 2018 “Punish a Muslim Day”, the letters called on the British public to commit random acts of violence against Muslims using a points based system depending on the severity of the act. These ranged from a mere 10 points for verbally abusing a Muslim or 50 points for throwing acid in their face through to 1,000 points for burning a mosque or a whopping 2,500 points to “nuke Mecca” (‘nuke’ being slang for dropping a nuclear bomb).
While the letters seemed to be sent indiscriminately, those sending them also targeted a number of prominent British Muslims. These included five Muslim Members of Parliament (MPs): Rupa Huq, Sajid Javid, Afzhal Khan, Mohammad Yasin and Rushanara Ali. In addition to the letters, each MP also received packages that contained what police later referred to as an irritant substance. This resulted in Huq being taken to hospital as a precaution after opening the package and Khan’s office being evacuated. Tell MAMA (Measuring Anti-Muslim Attacks) — an organisation set up to monitor Islamophobic hate crimes — also received a similar letter and package.
In spite of the significance of the letters and packages, the response of the British authorities was somewhat mixed. As regards trying to identify the perpetrators, the North East Counter Terrorism Unit begun an investigation. While so, there has yet to be any breakthrough about who might be behind the campaign. The approach of the police sat in stark opposition to that of the British Government. Despite the letters spreading fear among Britain’s Muslim communities, neither the Prime Minister Theresa May nor any of her ministers made any public comment — let alone condemnation — about the ‘Punish’ campaign. Choosing not to reassure the public, the lack of recognition afforded was indicative of the Government’s approach to Islamophobia and the expression of anti-Muslim bigotry.
In the weeks and days prior to the 3rd April, the letters understandably caused significant distress among Britain’s communities. This was particularly evident on social media. While some spoke about being too scared to go out for fear of what might occur, others spoke about the need to stand up to the letters and send out a message that Muslims will not be intimated. Most positioned themselves…