The letter titled "Punish a Muslim Day", which has been circulating since Friday, advertises April 3 as a day of violence against the UK's Muslim minority.
“These letters represent the reality and seriousness of escalating Islamophobia and anti-Muslim hatred in the UK as well as throughout Europe,” says Anas Altikriti, president of the Muslim Association of Britain.
“Whilst this specific letter might be the workings of a few desperate and pathetic individuals; to undermine the reality this letter reflects would be a huge mistake,” Altikriti told Anadolu Agency.
Altikriti said certain far-right extremists could take the existence of such a letter as an opportunity to attack on Muslims.
“Muslim families in the areas which received these letters are deeply disturbed and some have expressed fear of leaving their homes, in case some racist sees this as an open invitation to exert their tendencies and make this threat real,” he said.
The UK’s biggest Muslim umbrella group, the Muslim Council of Britain, also said that the vicious letter had caused “deep distress”, and urged the police to act.
“This vile letter campaign sent to Muslims across the UK has caused deep distress and alarm,” it said in a statement.
“We welcome the action being taken by the police to investigate this matter.
“Sadly it is reflective of hate against Muslims which continues to manifest itself alongside the rise of the far right. Our elected officials need to stand up and take action against Islamophobia in the same way they have taken action to counter bigotry against other groups.”
Following the first reports about the letter this past Friday, British counterterrorism police have launched a probe into the post calling for acts of violence against Muslims.
The letter, announcing a so-called “Punish a Muslim Day”, calls on people to attack Muslims in the form of verbal abuse, removing a woman’s hijab or headscarf, physical assault, or splashing acid on them. The letter also puts forth a point-award scale, with points scored according to the seriousness of the crime it proposes.
Counterterrorism police said it has received reports of "potentially malicious communications sent to individuals across the U.K." and they “are coordinating the investigation at this time and will consider any potential links to existing inquiries.”
“As uplifting it is to see the various police authorities take this seriously, it is important to note that this comes after years of official denial that Islamophobia even exists, never mind comprises a real threat,” Altikriti said.
'Undermines British society'
“It is crucial that everyone realizes that this not only threatens the Muslim community in Britain, but undermines British society as a whole by driving a wedge between its various components," he added. “As such, everyone must come together to condemn this act in the most vocal and visible way possible.”
On Monday, Victoria Atkins, a Conservative MP and the parliamentary under-secretary of state for the home department, said the government believes that the “abhorrent letters have no place in a decent society".
“This government takes hate crime and Islamophobia extremely seriously and the U.K. has a robust legislative framework to respond to it.
“Freedom of speech, freedom of worship, democracy, the rule of law, and equal rights define us as a society. The government is determined to promote these values actively working in partnership and alongside with the Muslim and indeed all faith communities,” she told British lawmakers.
Tell MAMA, a UK group that monitors hate crimes against Muslims and other minorities, has reported that communities in London, the Midlands, and Yorkshire have received the threatening letter this past weekend.
The anti-Muslim hate letter has since been received by at least four Muslim members of the British Parliament, according to police.
Rupa Huq, London's Ealing Central and Acton Labour MP, was the latest politician to have received a package that contained a noxious substance and a “Punish a Muslim Day” letter, copies of which were also sent to other Muslim MPs Rushanara Ali, Mohammad Yasin, and Afzal Khan.
'Sow division and fear'
Sir Iqbal Sacranie, the founding secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain between 1997 and 2000, thinks the letter intends to create division and fear.
“The dissemination of these 'Punish a Muslim' letters are a maligned act,” he said.
“Its sole purpose is intended to sow division and fear within our communities and to bring into question the cohesion and harmony we have built over the decades,” he added.
Praising the initial response from the government, he urged for a stronger response.
“The government was stern in its condemnation of these incidences, however a strong and determined response needs to be undertaken by the government to ensure that such incidences do not occur again and reassurances need to be made to the communities that had been threatened that their safety will be ensured.
“The security services need to identify the culprits and handle their cases in such a way as to discourage any such behavior should it occur in the future,” he said.
Source: Anadolu Agency