The police must treat attacks against Muslims as “hate crime”

Maz Saleem, daughter of Mohammed Saleem who was murdered in an Islamophobic attack in 2013, says the police must start investigating attacks on Muslims as “hate crimes.”

Two Muslim men were executed in cold blood last weekend in New York, yet the US media is still reluctant to address the murders as “hate crimes,” or even suspected hate crimes. But surely they should be treated as suspected hate crimes until proven otherwise.

The victims were named as Imam Mulana Uddin Akongi, 55, a father-of-three, who arrived in Queens less than two years ago from Bangladesh, and Thara Uddin, 65. They were gunned down a block away from Al-Furqan Jame Masjid Mosque in Ozone Park, where they had prayed together only minutes earlier.

The killing of the two men was condemned as a hate crime from the local Muslim community in Queens, with many blaming Donald Trump, accusing him of stoking Islamophobia. Akongi was carrying about $1,000 in cash that was not taken during the shooting, police reported.

Oscar Morel, 35, has denied charges he shot and killed the Muslim cleric and his assistant.

Mohammed Saleem murder

These events strike a chord as my beautiful father Mohammed Saleem was murdered on the streets of the UK just over 3 years ago. The police were reluctant to call this a “hate crime” too. They investigated every other motive but hate crime – the most obvious possible motive – was not initially investigated.

Pavlo Lapshyn (left) and Mohammed Saleem (right)
Pavlo Lapshyn (left) and Mohammed Saleem (right)

When we confronted West Midlands Police about our concerns with the investigation, we were shocked to discover that they were not even considering hate crime as a possible motive.

Dad was a practising Muslim and he enjoyed the serenity he found in his faith. It encompassed how he lived his life. Dad was keen to advocate education, he would often say there was no point in being a Muslim if one did not educate oneself because without good prospects a person could not fully support their family.

Tragically, he was singled out and murdered on the very road he had lived on for over 30 years, having worked so hard to provide for his family. It ultimately transpired that the motive for his murder by a Ukrainian neo-Nazi was because he was brown and dressed like a Muslim.

Islamophobia

The way we were treated by West Midlands Police demonstrated that not enough has changed since the Stephen Lawrence inquiry. The suspicion of the police, the surveillance we had placed on us and the Coroner’s failings in the judicial process left us with a very bitter taste. Much more needs to be done to address these failings.

We found the police complaints process disorganised and confusing. Our complaints were ignored by the IPCC and time limits on responses were not met.

We need to address the pressing issue of Islamophobia and its increase over the last few years, much of which has been instigated by right-wing politicians and media on both sides of the Atlantic. Muslims should be embraced and respected like every other community in an inclusive society. We are human beings just like everyone else.

The media has to stop this hate-fuelled reporting and our judiciary needs to review its processes around dealing with cases of hate crime, particularly when there is sustained targeting of people because of their identity.

My dad was an educated man who loved and respected this country. The brutal terrorist murder of my father, of the imams in Queens and of so many other Muslims around the world need to be recognised and addressed as Islamophobic hate crimes whenever they occur.

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