Socialist Worker

‘I will not be silent after racist attack’

Nahella Ashraf, an activist from Manchester Stand Up To Racism (SUTR), speaks out after being subjected to a racist attack on a trip to Hammersmith, west London, earlier this month

Issue No. 2537

We were in a takeaway and had just finished a meal, when the man who had been sitting behind us went to grab my arm. He started screaming in my face that he wouldn’t tolerate people like me.

It happened so fast. The people who were with me and the people behind the counter did come to get him off me. But it was interesting that it could happen even somewhere like Hammersmith.

It was quite clearly a racist attack. Some people have suggested that he must have had mental health issues to attack someone in a busy place.

But the fact that he picked out a Muslim woman in a crowd is indicative of the racism that’s in society.

When he was pulled off me, people asked, “What’s your problem, what are you doing?” He said, “How can you say that to me, you should be asking her”. He then spat in my face.

And as he was pushed out of the takeaway, all he was saying was, “People like her kill people.”

It wasn’t a surprise exactly, but it was very shocking. It’s a reflection of what’s happening in society.

The mainstream media and the government talk about terrorism and indicate that when there is an attack all Muslims are to blame. If you have that rhetoric coming from those in authority, it’s going to filter through to physical attacks.

It is really important we talk about this, because it happens all the time. The media and the government think it’s alright to discuss Muslim women in a way that you wouldn’t discuss any other woman.

It’s alright to talk about the way we dress and to say we’re all “submissive” but also somehow responsible for extremism.

At the same time as they talk about how much they want to see Muslim women “integrated”, they are putting women like myself at the forefront of the racist attacks.

Attacks

When you look at the figures it is Muslim women who, like myself, wear the hijab who have to deal with the attacks.

And many women don’t want to report it. That’s the reason I decided to go public.

It took me a couple of days and it wasn’t the easiest decision, but I think it is really important that we say this is happening.

Theresa May seems quite happy to use racism during the Brexit negotiations. There’s Donald Trump over in the US. Racism is going to ramp up.

Vigil in Hammersmith after the attack

Vigil in Hammersmith after the attack (Pic: Stand Up To Racism West London)


We have to raise awareness that this is happening, but also to build the biggest anti-racist movement that this country has ever seen.

West London SUTR held a vigil near the site of the attack on last Wednesday.

I’m going around Britain addressing SUTR meetings in the run-up to the national demonstrations in London, Glasgow and Cardiff on Saturday 18 March.

It’s really important that we raise the profile of the anti-racist movement.

Let’s build for 18 March. Let’s get people out on the streets and show the racists, the Tories and the press that we are the majority.

Let’s show them that they don’t represent us, and that they won’t divide us on racist grounds.

For details of SUTR public meetings go to bit.ly/2j071iI

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