A racist customer at a high-street department store in Bury angrily told a Muslim man that he would call the police to “deport him” after they made a polite request to maintain social distancing when queuing.

The incident occurred on the evening of November 27, and, despite the threat, the racist customer soon left the store as members of staff apologised, adding that the comments were unacceptable.

Speaking to Tell MAMA, and wishing to remain anonymous, he described how the man, whom he described as white and in his early-to-mid-forties, reacted to his innocuous request to maintain social distancing measures with such hostility, that even staff members had challenged him before their racist outburst, where he said: “I’ll call the police; if I call the police; they’ll take you to the airport and deport you.”

The Muslim man felt targeted due to his ethnicity and beard.

Nor did he report the racist incident to the police, citing a previous negative experience, where officers had informed him that despite the presence of CCTV footage, they had been unable to investigate further.

Following discussions, with our casework team, however, he did consent for our service to make an anonymous report to Greater Manchester Police to make them aware.

Last month, a senior police officer told a committee that arguments over face masks to limit the spread of coronavirus (Covid-19) was a contributing factor in rising reports of racist hate crime.

Nick Ephgrave, who is the Assistant Commissioner at the Metropolitan Police, told the London Assembly Police and Crime Committee, said: “Someone will challenge someone about the use or not of a face mask, and then in the course of that interaction will then use racist language.”

These comments appeared within a broader context: of rising racist behaviour from neighbours during the national lockdown, or strangers targeting members of the public, reflecting how racist hate crime remains, overwhelmingly, an issue of aggravated public order offences.

Tell MAMA has long documented in previous annual reports how the dynamics of neighbours targeting Muslim individuals and families, warning in 2017 that: “Perhaps most invasively, this day-to-day form of abuse can happen in and around the homes of Muslims, harming their sense of safety and limiting their social mobility.”

And in 2018, one in 10 reports from Muslim men had sported beards when targeted in anti-Muslim and Islamophobic incidents.

Academics have also explored, more broadly, how, in a post-9/11 context, the racialised visibility of Muslim men are more likely to be deemed security threats or disloyal, as visible Muslim women, in particular, are questioned about their nationality and cultural values.

Tell MAMA has documented other case studies where Muslim men, targeted because of their ethnicity and religious appearance, faced discriminatory and dehumanising comments related to terrorism or explosives.

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