On the night of April 29, 2013, Mohammed Saleem, a retired grandfather, was returning home after prayer at his local mosque in Small Heath, on the outskirts of Birmingham.
At 82, he was using a cane.
Suddenly Pavlo Lapshyn, a 25-year-old Ukrainian doctoral student, stabbed the old man three times in the back with a hunting knife, killing him.
The uppermost wound passed all over his body.
In June and July, Lapshyn, a white supremacist who wanted to “escalate racial strife” in his own words, planted bombs outside three mosques in the West Midlands, targeting the busiest times – the Friday congregations. .
He was subsequently arrested and pleaded guilty to all charges against him under the Explosives Act 1883 and the Terrorism Act 2006. He is currently serving at least 40 years in a UK prison.
Saleem’s gruesome murder, which Lapshyn committed just five days after arriving in the UK on a work visa, has devastated the UK Muslim community.
More than 5,000 people attended his funeral.
But according to Saleem’s daughter, Maz Saleem, there is still a long way to go to recognize Islamophobia as a dangerous phenomenon.
She is now calling on the UK government to officially recognize Islamophobia as a crime.
“We need to bring Islamophobia to the table,” she told Al Jazeera. “Islamophobia has been on the rise for longer than [so-called] war on terror. Muslims are attacked for their appearance and dress.
Through her social media campaign, she urges people to post testimonies about their own experiences of Islamophobic crime and abuse.
“Mohammed Saleem could have been any of us. That’s why we invite people to share their experiences under the hashtag #IAmMohammedSaleem. “
She also wants the UK to adopt an official legal definition of Islamophobia, an initiative she hopes will end it “once and for all.”
“We need society to recognize the weight of systematic racism that many of us experience on a daily basis.
“Islamophobic attacks do not happen in a vacuum. Individuals are encouraged to act on their hatred through government-approved anti-Muslim policies. If we want to put an end to this, we have to give it a name.
“How can we fight the rise of Islamophobia without a definition of what it is?”
Please watch the videos and posts from the Share and Retweet campaign. Jzk khair 🙏🏾💕
How you can help:
– IAMMOHAMMEDSALEEM (@IAMMOHDSALEEMUK) April 2, 2021
The campaign will run through April until the eighth anniversary of his father’s death.
Saleem was a father of seven and a 23-year-old grandfather.
He came to the UK in 1957 from Pakistan to help rebuild the country after World War II.
“It would take three shifts at the bakery to feed us all. He was a kind, good looking and hardworking man who made his daughters politically aware and grateful for having a home in the UK.
Maz Saleem is the youngest of his children and had a strong bond with him.
“I remember when I got the phone call about his death. The shock of it still lives on in me. It doesn’t go away, ”she said.
Lapshyn was sentenced by High Court Judge Judge Sweeney.
“You clearly have far-right white supremacist views, and you were motivated to commit the offenses out of religious and racial hatred in the hope that you would ignite a racial conflict and push Muslims to leave the area where you lived.” Sweeney said in remarks on the sentencing.
Inaccurate portrayals of the attack worsened the suffering of the Saleem family, Maz said.
“He (Lapshyn) is not labeled a terrorist in the mainstream media. They call him a mosque bomber, a killer or a far-right attacker. Never a terrorist ”.
According to government reports and hate crime monitor Tell MAMA UK, anti-Muslim hatred has increased in recent years.
Yasmine Adam, spokesperson for the Muslim Council of Britain, said Islamophobia was defined by an all-party parliamentary group and has been endorsed by civil society and most political parties – with the exception of the Tories in power – as “rooted in racism and type of racism.” which targets the Muslim or perceived Muslim ”.
“This is a glaring omission on the part of our ruling party, which should lead the fight against all forms of sectarianism,” said Adam.