The British Transport Police (BTP) is investigating an incident on the London Underground after a male passenger harassed and told a South Asian Muslim man that it’s a “Christian country and Muslims have no right to be here”, adding that Muslims made him feel “sick” and were “ungrateful” and “terrorists”.
Speaking to Tell MAMA, the man, who wishes to remain anonymous, described how the racist passenger boarded the Central line at Bond Street station and appeared in a drunken state, and before being targeted, observed how the perpetrator had asked other passengers for cannabis and invited (unsuccessfully) various women to ‘sit on his lap’ before his attention turned to a woman (in front of the Muslim man) noting her crucifix necklace, and asked if she was a Christian, to which she replied ‘yes’, and he demonstrated a tattoo on his arm confirming his own Christian beliefs, shouting, “this is a Christian country!”.
He then elbowed the Muslim man and again reiterated this was a ‘Christian country’ as his Islamophobic and anti-Muslim rant continued.
Due to the perpetrator’s aggressive and drunken state, he feared that the man would turn violent. To remove himself from further abuse, and the potential of violence, he exited the train at Queensway Station and took alternative trains home.
For a moment, he considered challenging the racist passenger, informing him that over a million Muslims had fought for the UK during both World Wars, that thousands of Muslims arrived and settled to rebuild the country, so people like him “could sit on this train in peace and security and make those vile comments” but, in his own words, “it would have been futile trying to reason or educate an ignorant anti-Muslim drunkard”.
Having not experienced such abuse before, it left him with mixed emotions and an added fear that his daughters and wife, who wear hijabs, would be targeted in the future. He told Tell MAMA: “I have mixed emotions ranging from fear, concern, anger and disappointment, and do not feel comfortable travelling on public transport like this again”.
A lack of intervention from members of the public on that crowded train over the August bank holiday felt just as bad as the abuse and harassment he faced, adding, that this demonstrated to him how the normalisation of anti-Muslim language had made some ‘too immune’ to intervene.
After returning home, he reported the Islamophobic incident to the BTP online.
He described the perpetrator as being a male, in their early twenties, who is of mixed ethnicity.
The weaponisation of a Christian identity (despite data pointing to a falling rate of Christian belief, in contrast to rising forms of atheism, a small rise in those identifying as Muslim, as 55 per cent of people surveyed did admit to believing in a God figure) in this example, demonstrates how radical forms of othering, are direct products of colonial thinking regarding the position of religious minorities, and how racialisation facilitated racial hierarchies despite Muslims and Islam being part of British life for centuries.
In 2018, Tell MAMA verified 59 anti-Muslim and Islamophobic incidents on transport networks.