A brutal attack in the heart of Middle England highlights the reality of everyday racism, reports Maz Saleem
A pregnant 34-year-old Muslim woman and her husband were brutally attacked in the Co-op supermarket car park in Bletchley, Milton Keynes, over eight weeks ago. Following the attack she lost her unborn child.
Yet the police only released the information on this horrific Islamophobic attack around 10 days ago. The woman originally from Somalia was wearing the hijab when the attack occurred.
The information that has come to light after my own investigation into this Islamophobic hate crime poses many questions about the actions of Thames Valley Police, Milton Keynes Hospital, South Central Ambulance Service and the Co-op.
Having spoken in-depth with local Councillor Mohammed Khan and others who are representing the family I strongly feel the institutions that we should trust and rely on have let the victim down immensely.
Given that an arrest has been made I cannot go into significant detail about what happened on the 6th August when the woman went into the local Co-op store to purchase some paracetamol.
But according to the family representatives I spoke to, the perpetrator approached her and was verbally aggressive towards her inside the Co-op and outside in the car park. The perpetrator then assaulted her and her husband before leaving the scene. Both needed hospital treatment.
A source told me: “A crowd then gathered but no one seemed to help them. One or two people asked if they were okay but everyone stood back watching as if it was a circus. No one went into the Co-op to ask for help initially and no Co-op staff came out to help either. Although the Co-op did eventually call an ambulance it took over an hour and twenty minutes for them to arrive. During this time no one approached the victims to offer them comfort or support.”
South Central Ambulance Service confirmed that the ambulance arrived in 52 minutes and apologised for the delay.
My sources also told me that once the woman was taken to hospital she explained that she was pregnant but shockingly still had to wait five hours to be seen. She claims the doctors said she wasn’t pregnant and she had to do her utmost to convince them she was. Eventually she claims that she got some medication and was sent home.
But the next day she went to her doctors who checked her again and she says he gave her a letter to confirm that she was eight weeks pregnant. Milton Keynes Hospital was contacted for a response and they said patient confidentiality prevents them from discussing specific patient cases without their explicit permission. The hospital is looking into the waiting time that the victim says she had to endure.
Since the incident Councillor Mohammed Khan has said: “No one has apologised to her for the lack of compassion, lack of care and negligence…. The police and the NHS are 100% negligent for their appalling handling of this case. A public enquiry needs to be opened and this case needs to be thoroughly investigated.”
I attended a vigil last Saturday in St James Park organised by local resident Saira Afzal for the unborn baby. “There has been hardly any media coverage around this Islamophobic hate crime,” she said. “Muslim woman have borne the brunt of these attacks because of the way they are dressed – it’s important to show solidarity and support to this sister and raise awareness. A lot of people have not heard about it and this vigil has brought awareness about the case to those who didn’t know.”
This shocking attack comes amid fears over a rise in hate crimes across the UK in the wake of the EU Referendum vote, with the number of reported incidents soaring by 400% in the week following 23 June. Muslim women are more likely to be attacked when they are using public transport, walking on the street or while out shopping. Around 80% of the abuse was carried out by men, who singled out Muslim women for attacks, portraying women wearing the niqab or hijab as a “security threat.”
The area has witnessed racially aggravated attacks before. The Hazrath Shahjalal Jamie Masjid mosque has been the target of several hate crime incidents since it was converted from a pub in 2011. The BNP have staged demonstrations outside the building. A pig’s head has also been thrown on the site before the building was converted into a mosque. The mosque was also the target of an arson attack in 2014.
After my investigation I believe a number of questions need answering: Why did it take Thames Valley Police over six weeks to release information about this hate crime? Is it true that doctors at Milton Keynes Hospital didn’t believe the Muslim woman when she said she was pregnant? Why did the Muslim woman and her husband have to wait for so long for the ambulance to arrive and then wait another five hours to be seen at hospital? Why were the Co-op staff not more proactive?
Thames Valley Police, Milton Keynes Hospital and South Central Ambulance Service have replied to enquiries; Co-op has not.
We need answers – and good answers – soon to what seems to me to be the botched handling of one of the most horrific Islamophobic attacks that the UK has seen since my father Mohammed Saleem’s brutal Islamophobic terrorist murder in April 2013. Had a pregnant white woman been attacked in this horrific way the police and the media would have gone all out and the response would no doubt have been a lot different.
Maz Saleem is the daughter of 82-year-old Mohammed Saleem, who was murdered in Birmingham just yards from his house by Ukrainian far-right terrorist Pavlo Lapshyn. Maz is an active campaigner against racism and Islamophobia in Britain.