Maz Saleem, whose father Mohammed Saleem was killed by a Neo Nazi terrorist eight years ago, is launching a campaign throughout April to highlight Islamophobic hate crimes and get the government to officially recognise a definition of Islamophobia.
It is nearing the 8th anniversary of my late father Mohammed Saleem’s death. But this is not the story of an old man who passed away naturally after living a full life; his passing was politically-motivated and so should the commemoration of it be.
On April 29, 2013 as my father made his way home from the mosque after Ishaa Prayer in Birmingham, he was tragically killed by a Neo-Nazi terrorist called Pavlo Lapshyn. The very same Nazi went on a three-month bombing campaign and put bombs outside three mosques across the West Midlands.
This was one of the biggest acts of terrorism on UK soil. Yet to this day most people have no idea about this case. This is in part due to the silence of the mainstream media. Whenever terror-related headlines reach our screens they are often about those who identify with the Muslim faith; rarely do we hear of the merciless violence of white supremacists who took my father’s life.
Mohammed Saleem is sadly not the only victim of Islamophobic attacks. Makram Ali is another Muslim who was killed in the Finsbury Park terrorist attack during the holy month of Ramadan in 2017. His attacker Darren Osborne, who was radicalised by white supremacist ideologies and far-right extremism, murdered him as he drove his van into a group of Muslim worshippers leaving the mosque in north London.
Another case is that of 81-year old Muhsin Ahmed who was killed by two men in a racially-motivated attack as he made his way to a mosque in Rotherham.
Normalisation of Islamophobia
Islamophobic attacks and racist verbal abuse are becoming more and more normalised. For so many Muslims in the UK it has become practically an everyday occurrence. We desperately need urgent action to stop the poison of Islamophobia from spreading any further.
An important start would be for the official, legal recognition of Islamophobia to finally be adopted by our government.
The UK government continues to reject the Islamophobia definition put forward by several political parties and which campaigners have been fighting for. How can we tackle the rise of Islamophobia without a definition of what it is?
My father’s death, Makram Ali’s killing and Muhsin Ahmed’s murder were perpetrated in the name of white supremacy and Islamophobia. This is a fact, it is not a point of discussion. Therefore, there must be an official recognition of this specific form of hate crime. Ignoring Islamophobia as a category is disrespectful to all these brutal killings of Muslims, it weakens the justice for family members left morning, and it is an exercise in erasing politically-motivated attacks.
It is incredible that to this day I am still having to campaign for specific details and the nature of my father’s killing as an act of terrorism to be mentioned when his death is referenced in mainstream media. I recall one complaint I made to a mainstream broadcasting house that responded by asking me to be more precise, sharing the example of an attacker belonging to Al Qaeda. It just reinforced the double-standards and the racist undertones of the terminology used for violent, politically-motivated attacks aka terrorism.
This discomfort, overusing a term (terrorism) that is so often and lazily used to describe racialised, Muslim and left-wing people, is something that I am now accustomed to. But the facts speak for themselves – Pavlo Lapshyn, who murdered my father, was charged under section 2 of the Explosive Substances Act 1883 and section 5 (1) of the Terrorism Act 2006.
White supremacist terrorism
For my family the suffering is made worse with inaccurate descriptions of my father’s murder, and each time we are dismissed over incorrect information it undermines my father’s death further.
An official, legal adoption of Islamophobia would provide the weight that many of us need to seek justice. It also forces our government to put a name on the Islamophobia that it has been spewing for years through rhetoric and laws.
Murderous and violent attacks do not happen in a vacuum. Individuals are emboldened to act on their hate because they are empowered by the endless racism across social media, biased mainstream media reporting, Islamophobic headlines that we are exposed to daily, and the anti-Muslim policies pushed through by our government.
The “I Am Mohammed Saleem” campaign, which will launch on April 1st, across social media with testimonies of racism and xenophobia, seeks to force the Islamophobia definition back on the government’s agenda.
We must stand up, organise against this dangerous climate of hate, and refuse to accept the dehumanisation of Muslims. We should be collectively proclaiming that we will not be scapegoats. We will not be punch bags. We will not be far-right re-election strategies. We are not an excuse to spy on communities and attack civil liberties.
Until there is an official recognition of our oppression in the most basic way possible – a definition of it – we will fight to deliver justice … we are all Mohammad Saleem.
How you can help:
Film and share your story, include the words “I am Mohammad Saleem.” Remember to tag @IAMMOHDSALEEMUK. For more information: firstname.lastname@example.org
Links for the campaign: