Nine years on from my father’s murder lessons have not been learned

Mohammed Saleem

Maz Saleem, daughter of Mohammed Saleem who was killed in a brutal terror attack by a Ukrainian Neo-Nazi in 2013, says lessons have not been learned from her father’s murder.

Today marks nine years since my elderly father, Haji Mohammed Saleem, was murdered by a terrorist as he walked home from the mosque at the fragile age of 82 years old.

Pavlo Laphsyn, the Ukrainian neo-Nazi who killed him, also carried out three mosque bombings in Walsall, Wolverhampton and Tipton.

Laphsyn is serving a 40 years sentence at HMP Wakefield, a high security prison in the UK. In 2020 he pleaded guilty to making an explosive substance whilst imprisoned after admitting to prison officers he had been preparing chemicals in his cell. An experienced chemical engineer, Laphsyn used substances including salt, copper wire and a pencil to form what a forensic expert confirmed was a viable explosive substance.

Unbelievably, Judge Tom Bayliss described Lapshyn as a “highly intelligent man” and did not add time to his sentence. Can you imagine if a so-called “Muslim terrorist” tried to blow up a prison? There would be back-to-back headlines and non-stop media coverage. Yet Laphsyn’s most recent act of terrorism barely got any media coverage.

Double standards and hypocrisy 

After tirelessly campaigning against racism and Islamophobia for the past nine years, these double standards and hypocrisies by the British state are no longer surprising.

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What has changed in the last nine years? Things have only gotten worse.

Increasingly racist and Islamophobic laws and policies are being pushed through by Boris Johnson’s Conservative government, via token brown faces such as Priti Patel and Rishi Sunak.

Statistics show that far-right extremists are more active in Britain and accounted for 41% of terrorism arrests last year. Yet Home Secretary Priti Patel has expanded the Prevent Programme, claiming it doesn’t focus enough on alleged Islamic extremists.

Pavlo Lapshyn

Patel’s new Asylum Bill is shameful and racist to the core. This bill will allow pushbacks at sea, indefinite detention and will use millions of pounds of taxpayer money to deport migrants to Rwanda. This is how they treat vulnerable women, children and men in 2022. Or at least, how they treat brown and black women children and men.

The U.K. used to pride itself as a country that would support migrants and refugees. My father came to the U.K. under the Commonwealth scheme in 1957. Under the scheme Britain invited immigrants from countries it had colonised and divided, such as India and Pakistan, to come to the U.K. and help rebuild the country after the war.

When my father, Mohammed Saleem, first came to Britain as a young, handsome Pakistani man, he worked at the steelwork’s factory in Aston, Birmingham. Dad loved and respected this country and was so proud to be British. He never had a bad word to say about this nation.

Devastatingly, at the delicate age of 82, my father was singled out on his way home from the local mosque after ishaa prayers. He was targeted on the road he lived for most of his life, by a terrorist who had only been in the country for five days. He was singled out by a known Ukrainian neo-Nazi terrorist who was still allowed to come to the U.K. A man who had shaken the hand of the British ambassador in Ukraine and then stabbed my fragile father to death and continued his violent terrorism over three months, placing nail bombs outside three mosques in Walsall, Wolverhampton and Tipton.

And after his arrest, Lapshyn told police he wanted to start a race war in the U.K.

Ukrainian racism

Today, we are seeing white “blonde hair and blue eyed” Ukrainian refugees fast-tracked into to Britain, while Muslim, black and brown refugees and migrants are treated differently because of institutional racism and Islamophobia and a deep-seeded societal racism that overlooks the far-right and demonises Muslims.

We have seen vile reports of Pakistani, Indian and African students stuck in Ukraine in basements of building with no food or water and too scared to flee because of sniper attacks. Black and brown people trying to flee and cross neighbouring countries such as Poland, Romania and Bulgaria who have faced disgusting racism not only from Ukrainian refugees and border control, but also from those high up in governmental positions.

There are many reports of black people being stopped and pushed back at border crossings in favour of white Ukrainians. Videos have circulated on social media of black people being pushed off trains in favour of white European Ukrainian men, women and children.

There have been reports of animals being allowed on to trains before Africans are allowed to flee. Mainstream media reporting by Ukrainian officials and western journalists covering the war have also shown a very obvious racial bias.

An even bigger concern is that they are downplaying the role of Ukrainian neo-nazi militia Azov battalion, which has received U.K. weapons for the war against Russia.The neo-Nazi Azov battalion was formed in 2014 and has invited other European far-right groups to Ukraine to come train with them at their camps.

The conflict in Ukraine is a prime opportunity for racist far-right groups in Britain to travel to Ukraine and to be trained by the Neo-Nazi Azov battalion and empower them to come back to the U.K. and cause havoc on our streets.

We need to take this very seriously. Banned British Nazi terrorist group National Action have clear links with the Azov battalion and have even had members go to Ukraine and train with them.

My family found out the hard way that we cannot stop ideologies crossing borders. The U.K. allowed someone with a known history of neo-Nazism and bomb making skills to travel to Britain and cause devastation and destruction in the West Midlands.

It’s not good enough to condemn the murder of my father – the government and media have to recognise the role they play in the toxic climate that facilitated his murder; one that continues to downplay, and sometimes support, far-right ideology and demonise ordinary Muslims and minorities.

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