Anti-Muslim attacks in UK jumped 375% after PM Johnson’s burqa remarks, group says

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The U.K. has recorded a 375% increase in anti-Muslim attacks weeks after Prime Minister Boris Johnson made racist remarks in which he called veil-wearing women “letterboxes” and “bank robbers,” according to a report released by an anti-hate monitor.

Tell MAMA reported Monday that 38 hate attacks against Muslims were recorded in the following weeks after Johnson’s remarks were published in the Daily Telegraph in August, compared to eight incidents the week prior.

“Of the 38 anti-Muslim hate incidents in the first week following Mr. Johnson’s comments, 22 were directed at visibly Muslim women who wore the face veil [niqab] or other veiling practices. We recorded a total of 57 incidents in the three weeks following the column’s publication, 32 of which were directed at visibly Muslim women,” the report said.

In his column, Johnson said he opposed banning burqas and other face-covering garments but wrote that it was “absolutely ridiculous that people should choose to go around looking like letterboxes.”

Then-Prime Minister Theresa May and Minister of State Brandon Lewis called on Johnson to apologize over his remarks but he refused. After his anti-Muslim comments, Britain’s largest umbrella body of Muslim organizations urged the country’s equality watchdog to formally investigate alleged Islamophobia within the leading Conservative Party.

The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) has repeatedly urged the Conservative Party leadership to tackle the issue of Islamophobia within the party and investigate Tories accused of Islamophobia.

Racist comments by Tory members and councilors have been found online, with some calling for the bombing of mosques, and others making racist comments about London Mayor Sadiq Khan and former Tory Home Secretary Sajid Javid.

According to the report, it was the second-largest spike in anti-Muslim attacks, with the first one taking place in March when a British man sent “Punish a Muslim Day” letters across the U.K., urging people to commit violence against Muslims and detailing a point system for each action and a reward. The letter called on people to attack Muslims in the form of verbal abuse or physical assault, for example by removing a woman’s headscarf or by throwing acid on them.

According to reports released in 2018, Britain is facing a new and significant threat from far-right terrorism. As the number of white Britons arrested on terrorism-related offenses increases, anti-Muslim hate crimes have skyrocketed by more than 500% following the May 22, 2017 concert suicide bombing in Manchester.

In 2016, some 4,400 religious hate crimes were carried out, a number that went up to 5,949 in 2017. The peculiar nature of the letter itself suggests that it is not, in fact, genuine and could spawn an organized internet campaign and stir up emotion within the populations of not only Britain but also the rest of the West.

Significant factors included the June 2016 vote to leave the EU, a goal linked to curbing immigration in the eyes of some Brexit supporters, as well as a spate of attacks by militants in the first half of 2017.

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