A pregnant Muslim woman, who wears the hijab and abaya, described feeling very threatened by the stalkerish and intimidating behaviour of a man who, for a brief time, followed her and her young child, in a branch of the supermarket chain Sainsbury’s in south London.
The anti-Muslim and Islamophobic incident occurred on the evening of November 18.
Speaking to Tell MAMA, she agreed to have their story told anonymously to raise awareness (but has not reported elsewhere) and mentioned how her husband had been in a different aisle when the threatening behaviour began.
At first, she described paying the perpetrator no attention as he walked past her, only to stop, retrace his steps, and give what she described as a threatening “death stare”.
Out of fear, she began to quicken her pace, pushing the trolley with her young child inside, only to see the man continuing to follow, and given it was late evening, there were few other customers around to intervene.
Only after reuniting with her husband did the perpetrator stop their intimidating behaviour, as the husband challenged the man, who stopped and said nothing.
She described the male perpetrator as white and in his late thirties to early forties.
Tell MAMA continues to highlight and document in research and the experiences of other Muslim women how anti-Muslim abuse and Islamophobia harms their mobility – whether out shopping, on public transport or in public areas, free from the fear of harm, discrimination, or violence.
This extends to other fundamental rights, including religious expression in workplaces and educational institutions without hindrance from management, and the expectation of equality when purchasing goods or when travelling.
As long evidenced in various annual and interim reports by Tell MAMA, the gendered dynamic, which often operates through racialised and misogynistic frameworks, also reveals how male perpetrators feel emboldened by harmful stereotypes about the apparent ‘meekness’ of Muslim women based on their religious clothing.
Such experiences also influence behavioural changes in Muslims, with some changing routines or avoiding public transport to risk the risk of experiencing abuse or violence again.
Throughout 2018, a majority of known perpetrators in verified reports to Tell MAMA were male (73 per cent, or 482 of 663), and 61 per cent of that figure were white men.
Tell MAMA approached Sainsbury’s for comment, and a spokesperson said, “We want everyone to feel safe and welcome in our stores, so we’re very concerned by this customer’s experience,” and urged the Muslim woman to contact them directly.