A viral letter that began circulating online over a month ago had New York City police officers on high alert this Tuesday. The letter advertised April 3rd as “Punish a Muslim Day,” encouraging people to commit violent crimes against Muslims.
The flyer featured a chart of suggested actions and a point system, asserting that more violent actions would guarantee a greater reward, though there was no indication what the supposed reward would entail. On the chart, the mildest suggested act was “verbally abuse a Muslim” for 10 points, while the most extreme urged participants to “nuke Mecca” for 2,500 points.
There has been a flyer circulating on the internet encourage violence against Muslims.— zellie (@zellieimani) April 3, 2018
The intention of this flyer is to spread hate, instill fear and recruit others to partake in, Punish a Muslim Day. pic.twitter.com/Qo3mGZNtw8
Hard copies of the letter were anonymously mailed to families in London. In the United States, images of the letter made rounds in several online communities. A namesake hashtag rattled through Twitter in the days leading up to April 3rd. On social media, many speculated that the campaign was a hoax.
As a result of the high profile nature of the threats, however, the New York Police Department made a point to publicize their heightened presence around houses of worship throughout the city. All day, armed officers could be seen standing guard outside several mosques wearing helmets and flak jackets.
While Muslim communities were shaken by the eerie letter, and law enforcement tightened security, advocacy organizations like the Council on American-Islamic Relations remained incredulous. “There’s no reason to believe it poses a credible threat to New Yorkers,” said Albert Fox Cahn, legal director for CAIR New York.
Cahn said that while CAIR New York is always happy to partner with law enforcement to ensure community safety, the policing of mosques has a long and tense history in the city that should not be forgotten. CAIR, which handles cases of discrimination and prejudice against Muslims every day, monitored the situation throughout the day but found no reason for heightened concern.
.@BPEricAdams puts on Taqiyah , Muslim headdress, #antimuslimviolence #PunishAMuslimDay will not be tolerated - dont mess with this man, former @nypdnews captain. we will be out there with them tomorrow https://t.co/Iix6RiQ1eg pic.twitter.com/5cI5XdTShx— Todd Maisel (@ToddMaisel) April 2, 2018
Solidarity with Muslims
Still, city officials like Brooklyn Borough President, Eric L. Adams took to the streets to show solidarity for New York’s Muslim community. On Tuesday afternoon, Adams went on a community patrol alongside Muslim NYPD officers.
though every day may feel like "punish a Muslim day," please be extra vigilant today. everything on this list is an act of terror, but since the state gets to redefine terrorism every time a non Muslim commits it, these won't be considered. may Allah protect us all https://t.co/r2apnVS9EM— Ruqayya (@ruqayyya) April 3, 2018
In fact, by Tuesday afternoon, “Love a Muslim Day” was trending on social media. Several American celebrities, including comedian Dean Obeidallah and actress Sophia Bush, used the opportunity to post uplifting messages of inclusion to fight hate speech in the wake of the letter.
So far, no major crimes in New York have been reported to be linked to the viral campaign even though the Muslim community and its sympathizers continue to remain concerned.
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