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‘Punish a Muslim Day:’ Here’s what happened during the call for mass violence

Eve Dugdale

Published: Updated:

Keep calm and carry on has been a popular phrase in Britain since 1939.

The government came up with the slogan to use on posters they created in preparation for World War II.

And it appears us hardy Brits are still following the same advice as “Punish a Muslim Day” seemed to pass without incident and little reaction yesterday.

The day, which was the focus of anonymous letters distributed to some homes and businesses last month suggested people could win “points” for a range of activities aimed at Muslims, including removing a headscarf from a woman or beating somebody. Muslim members of Parliament were also sent the letter.

But while some schools around the country warned parents about the letters and suggested they be vigilant, for most Muslims in the UK, the threat fell on deaf ears.

“I just ignored it, and didn’t talk about it or let it affect my day at all,” said Modussir Choudry.

“Some children at the school my wife works at were scared so they had to address it though.”

Rachid B said not talking about the letters was key as those behind the hateful message would thrive on their threats being circulated and creating hysteria.

He explained: “The whole thing started as some prejudiced idiot’s fantasy. They wrote a letter and it went viral, ironically largely due to Muslims sharing it I believe.”

Others however chose to be defiant in the face of such vitriol.

Events were planned across the country to show opposition to the threats. A Love a Muslim Day was organised in Nottingham which organiser Farouk Azam told Britain’s Guardian newspaper was an “opportunity for good people in Nottingham to stand together in solidarity, to show we can live side by side in a city we love.”

There were similar days held in other cities with the Stand Up to Racism Edinburgh organisation holding a demonstration in the Scottish capital.

And then there was Manchester café owner Manzoor Ali, who organised a day of kindness in response to the threats.

Manzoor, who runs Barakah Foods wanted to counter the propaganda by hosting a peaceful community event.

Suggesting the day should be called ‘Banish Hate Day’, he and his staff as well as family, friends and volunteers teamed up to give out free tea and cake in the town of Chorlton in South Manchester. He explained he wanted to spread a “message of love” after being horrified about the letters that were distributed after his niece showed him a leaflet on WhatsApp.

He told iNews: “It’s astonishing if people want to spread this hate. Even if they’re joking, people latch on to it. The person behind it has lit a match and those sharing it are throwing fuel on the fire.

“There’s a miniscule minority intent on division and this plays into their hands.”

Echoing Manzoor’s words, fellow Mancunian Muslim Saima Rasul said: “To be honest I'm not bothered about it and nor did I think about it. I still continued to do what I usually do. I would not let silly things like that stop me. I think it's just a scaremongering thing and I don't believe anyone would be stupid enough to actually punish a Muslim. Well, I hope so.”

While admitting that the creation of the letter was a sad indictment of the world today, Mobeen Khan reiterated what other Muslims seemed to think.

“This Punish a Muslim Day has been kept quiet by many and I can see why,” he explained.

“By telling people, the message may become stronger and more widespread by being promoted without the intention to do that. It’s a double edged sword though between awareness and encouragement.”

And Noor Bassam says she didn’t alter her routine at all and admitted most of her friends hadn’t even heard about the letters.

She said: “To be honest, as a woman in a burqa, I feel conscious when I’m outside in non-Muslim areas but I don’t let it affect what I do. You have to stay strong and that’s what I did today.”

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