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Increase in acid attacks as the state sanctions Islamophobia against Muslims

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A white man poured acid in two Muslims’ faces in a ‘hate crime’ in London last week—a sign that the government’s anti-terror strategy is stirring up racism, writes Tomáš Tengely-Evans
Issue 2561
Police have named John Tomlin as a suspect in the Newham acid attack
Police have named John Tomlin as a suspect in the Newham acid attack (Pic: Metropolitan Police/Twitter)

A series of acid attacks on Muslims has shown the terrible consequence of Islamophobic policies, speeches and propaganda.

At the beginning of this week police were searching for a 24 year old white man after a horrific acid attack on two Muslims in Newham, east London, last week.

Resham Khan and Jameel Muhktar were attacked while celebrating Resham’s 21st birthday. A man poured acid through their car window as they waited at traffic lights in the Beckton area.

Police, who have named John Tomlin as a suspect, were not initially treating the attack as a hate crime. They now say that “following new information that has come to light, it is being treated as a hate crime”.

Tomlin has shared racist posts on his Facebook page proclaiming himself “100 percent English and proud”. Another post he shared urges people to “make Britain great again” and “reclaim what is rightfully ours”.

Jameel said that “it’s definitely a hate crime”.

“I believe it was something to do with Islamophobia or maybe he’s got it in for Muslims because of the things that have been going on lately,” he told Channel 4 News.

There has been a rise in acid attacks in the last year. According to figures from the London Metropolitan Police the number of acid attacks has risen from 261 in 2015 to 454 in 2017.

There have been reports of further attacks in the last week alone.

One Twitter user, @BadBai, reported another acid attack in Newham last Thursday. “One of my boy’s friends just got acid thrown in his car between Wanstead and Forest Gate,” he tweeted.

“Please be careful, especially if you’re brown”. There has been a report of at least one other acid attack in east London.


Politicians and right wing newspapers have been quick to offer sympathy with Resham and Jameel, with the Daily Star branding Tomlin a “sick brute”.

But it is newspapers such as the Daily Star that repeatedly push racism against Muslims, smearing them as terrorist sympathisers.

Hate crimes against Muslims in both Manchester and London have surged in the wake of the horrific terrorist attacks last months.

Politicians have whipped up Islamophobia even more after these attacks with plans for terror laws to clamp down on Muslims (see below).

This sort of state-sponsored Islamophobia from the top of society fuels attacks on the streets.

A mosque in Finsbury Park in north London received death threats following an Islamophobic attack at the beginning of this month.

Darren Osborne ploughed a van into worshippers, killing one and injuring ten, who were gathered nearby in-between prayers.

We have to stand in solidarity with the victims and demand justice for them.

It is important that the Stand Up To Racism group in Newham had planned a vigil for Resham and Jameel this Wednesday evening.

We also have to fight against the Islamophobia and racism whipped up by politicians and the press that can produce such attacks.

Prevent strategy shows how racism is approved by those at the top

A new report has called on the Tory government to come up with an official definition of racism against Muslims.

The Missing Muslims—Unlocking British Muslim Potential for the Benefit of All report was produced by a commission chaired by Tory MP Dominic Grieve.

The fact that it recognises Islamophobia is a sign of the pressure on the Tories, but it comes with a sting in the tail.

It found that Muslims feel they are “unfairly targeted”. Its recommendations include reviewing the Islamophobic “Prevent” programme.

Part of the Counter Terrorism Act 2015, this forces public sector workers, such as teachers, to spy for signs of “radicalisation”.

The whole Prevent programme is racist to its core—it should not be reviewed, but should be dumped immediately.

Grieve talked about the need for action to “break down barriers and bring people together.”

This still plays into the racist lie that Britain is becoming more segregated, and that Muslims are living as a “nation within a nation”.

The Tories are hoping to use Islamophobia under the guise of “national unity”. Their talk is still based on dividing Muslims between “good” and “bad” Muslims.

The only good Muslims are those who meekly accept what the government is doing—and do not question British foreign policy.

This is what the narrative around “British values” is really about.

We need anti-racist unity from among working class and oppressed people, not “national unity” with the people at the top who push racism against Muslims.

A walk against racism in Oxford last Sunday
A walk against racism in Oxford last Sunday (Pic: Julie Simmons)

Oxford anti-racists show solidarity after attack

Over 200 people held a community walk against racism in Florence Park in Oxford last Sunday. It followed a reported racist attack on Somali women in the park after Eid celebrations last month.

Called by Oxford Stand Up To Racism (SUTR), it was a diverse event with Anneliese Dodds MP and several Labour and Green councillors in attendance.

A short rally at the end saw speakers call for greater unity and opposition to racism.

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