A Muslim family enjoying a New Year’s walk faced abuse from a female customer when queuing for hot drinks at a café in Northampton.

Agreeing to have their story told based on anonymity, they described how the length of the queue was awkward for customers and staff, as the mother, who wears the hijab, politely apologised to one member of staff after making way for them to use a door.

Speaking to Tell MAMA, she then described how a middle-aged white woman with red hair crept close to her before whispering in her ear, “That’s what not you’re meant to do.”

Understandably perplexed by their actions, the Muslim woman asked the red-haired woman several times to repeat her statement before she aggressively stated that “it’s called being KIND”.

Being the only ethnic minority in the room, she felt singled out because of her ethnicity and hijab, which she maintains she wears with pride.

The aggression did not go unnoticed by other customers who defended them.

At this moment, she realised a racist motive was at hand when speaking about the support given, noting how a customer behind them challenged the perpetrator and said, “we were just as close to the door; why didn’t you say that to us?” – to which the perpetrator had no reply.

She expressed her immense gratitude for the upstanders who defended her, including those who comforted her as she got teary-eyed, with one fellow customer telling her, “Don’t waste anymore time on her”.

The tears carried over when leaving the café, but she remained resolute in challenging this, and with their informed consent, Tell MAMA will write to the café to raise awareness and protect their identity further, will not disclose its name for now.

There is a vast body of academic research and literature on the harms and impacts of microaggressions. And how they commonly occur: as microassaults, microinsults, and microinvalidations, which can prove mentally draining, increase stress, and result in poor mental health outcomes. Further studies found how anti-Muslim and Islamophobic microaggressions manifested as harmful stereotypes about terrorism amongst university students in parts of Canada. A different study looked at religiously-motivated microaggressions (where a Muslim student described being othered by a group of Christian students for practising the “wrong religion”). Other studies explored the intersectionality of how microaggressions target Black and South Asian Muslims in particular ways. Equally, some Black Muslims on majority-white campuses struggled to get their peers to acknowledge their ethnic and religious identities.

Tell MAMA continues to educate the public about how they safely intervene and avoid being bystanders – from calling the police on behalf of individuals (if they request to do so), speaking with those impacted before or after when the perpetrator(s) leave, and offering reassurance to challenging the perpetrator when safe to do so.

You can get advice from our confidential and free helpline on 0800 456 1226. Or through our free iOS or Android apps. Report through our online form. Or message us on WhatsApp on 0734 184 6086 or message us on Twitter or Facebook by following @tellmamauk.