Muslim woman tells her story of Islamophobic and racial abuse on bus

Violent attacks against Muslim women have increased over the last two years.

Maryam bint Adam from Leicester describes her ordeal on a bus last week when a white couple racially abused her, and made anti-Muslim statements towards her. 

Maryam forwarded the following statement to 5Pillars:

“The incident took place last Wednesday morning, on the bus I take to work. Alhamdulillah, prior to this, I’ve never had any kind of grief or trouble from any passengers. People just keep themselves to themselves. I’m one of a few Muslims who catch this bus regularly, but never had any kind of trouble like this.

I boarded the bus with a number of other passengers and noticed that two people, a man and woman, were hurrying to catch our bus. I went and sat upstairs like I normally do, the lower deck is always full at that time, and shortly after the two people came and sat directly behind me, despite there being a number of other empty seats. When I got on the bus, the upper deck was fairly empty with around 10 people. As the bus proceeded, more came on.

I felt uneasy when they sat behind me but felt it would be rude to get up and move, and I knew that it would probably cause some conflict. They were talking quietly at first and I understood they were a couple. About halfway into the journey, I saw from the reflection of the glass, the man’s hand move away from my hijab whilst his girlfriend said repeatedly ‘what are you doing?’ and he replied ‘I don’t care, I don’t care, she’s a f****n Paki’. I don’t know what he was trying to do, and I dread to think what would’ve happened if his girlfriend didn’t loudly question him.

I was shocked and afraid because it had been 7 years since I last heard that word. And it brought back so many bad memories for me. Before I knew it, my chest suddenly started constricting and I couldn’t breathe properly. I started crying and trembling and went into a full panic attack, something I’ve never experienced before. I was so desperate to hide it from them because I was very afraid of what they would do or say; I was a young woman on my own.

As we approached the city centre, the man suddenly started getting really agitated. One comment I caught was, ‘why is she f— shaking so much? Why she moving around?’ and he repeatedly started kicking my chair, hard. He then came up close behind me and said that he did love the taste of pork and made some weird sounds whilst repeating the word bacon over again. He also mentioned something about beef, which shows how ill-informed he actually was regarding the basic tenants of Islam. He was doing all of this, in an attempt to gain my attention and possibly a reaction. This all happened whilst I was having a panic attack and it only made it worse for me, at this point, I couldn’t even try to hide the fact I was in a state. Both of them were laughing, treating it like a joke and didn’t seem to care about the effects of their words.

Other people on the bus remained silent. I do believe that those sitting behind the couple may have heard what was going on, but chose not to intervene, even though as people passed me to go downstairs at their stops, a couple saw my face though I quickly looked away.

I got off the bus at my stop after the 30 minute journey, of which 20 of those minutes were them targeting me, and proceeded to catch the second bus to get me to work. People passing by could clearly see that I was distressed but no one made an attempt to approach me. I only felt calmer after around 2 hours of the incident occurring. I told my close friends about it and they, along with others, advised me to file a report regarding this.

I do think I was targeted purely because of the way I dress. I’m easily identifiable as a Muslim, wearing both abaya and hijab Alhamdulillah, and they thought that as a woman, I wouldn’t speak up or retaliate. They picked on someone they perceived to be weak. Whether they intended to do this from the start, or just saw me as a quick bit of ‘fun’, only they can answer that.

It’s sad because to begin with, I wasn’t even thinking about informing anyone regarding this. I thought the police wouldn’t care; it’s a non-issue, people would tell me to get a grip. And it reminded me of how many other sisters have gone through the same thing, their stories just remained unheard, they’re the voiceless ones.

I think the more people who report incidents like this, the more people will take Islamophobic incidents seriously and sisters will have the courage to come forward, knowing that it will be dealt with and not treated lightly.”

The police have been in touch Arriva and have obtained CCTV footage from the bus. Police are dealing with the case as racially-aggravated hate crime. 

 

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