A Muslim woman told an abusive passenger “You have freedom of speech, but you don’t have freedom of hate” on a crowded bus in Sheffield after interrupting their Islamophobic rant.
The incident occurred on October 11.
The Muslim woman, when speaking to Tell MAMA, described how the abusive woman targeted a white convert who wears the hijab, adding that the abuse included statements like “go back to where you came from” and “you’re coming over here, claiming all the benefits,” which the woman challenged despite being on the opposite side of the bus.
Her intervention, however, did not stop the verbal abuse as the witness to the tirade became subject to similar abuse.
The abusive woman told her: “I can say what I like, I have freedom of speech”. To which, she replied: “You have freedom of speech, but you don’t have freedom of hate”. Despite challenging the abuse, the woman then directed broad anti-Muslim and Islamophobic comments at her.
Another passenger then spoke out, accusing the abusive woman of being racist.
The bus driver had also threatened to remove the woman if she continued to abuse Muslim passengers but the perpetrator soon left the bus on her volition.
After speaking with the bus driver, who agreed to provide a witness statement, the Muslim woman reported the incident to South Yorkshire Police and praised the actions of the driver after speaking with his employer.
The abusive language, directed at two white converts, both of whom wear the hijab, demonstrates how Islamophobic and anti-Muslim language is often racialised, which can “incorporate cultural factors in addition to traditional, physical markers of race and ethnicity”. This form of racialisation, notable in the United States, has a long history which has been documented at length by various academics.
This incident reflects how some perpetrators demonstrate a conscious and outward rejection of the national identity of the person they are victimising. In broader terms, this would fall under the ‘Defensive’ typology, outlined in hate crime literature by McDevitt in 2002. Further research conducted in 2014, at the Leicester Hate Crime Project, found that such a desire manifested in public discourses around social welfare or employment, where a sense of resentment or hostility grew from the perceived unfairness that certain out-groups were ‘sponging’ welfare support or taking jobs away from the dominant in-group.
The perpetrator was described by the Muslim woman as being white, female, who was in her fifties or early sixties.
Reports of anti-Muslim hatred and Islamophobia on transport networks to Tell MAMA increased by 25 per cent last year with 107 verified reports, up from 85 verified reports in the previous reporting cycle.