Leeds imam reports rise in Islamophobic attacks

Qari Asim, the Imam at Makkah Majjid Mosque, Leeds.
Qari Asim, the Imam at Makkah Majjid Mosque, Leeds.
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A Leeds imam has urged women in traditional Islamic dress not to travel alone in the city after claiming they are at increased risk of abuse in the wake of the Paris attacks.

Qari Asim, from Leeds Makkah Mosque, said he has anecdotal evidence of a rise in Islamophobic incidents across the city since the atrocities on November 13 - particularly against women wearing headscarves.

He said: “There’s definitely been a spike. Like there was just after the Lee Rigby murder. For instance this weekend, on a train from Huddersfield to Leeds, a girl was verbally abused in the carriage. People telling her to get off - because she was in a headscarf.

“What we have seen is on the trains, bus stops or buses - effectively in a contained environment - people are being abused.”

He added: “We’re asking people to remain vigilant, travel together rather than alone, especially in the evenings and especially young women.

“Secondly, to report it whenever it happens. Don’t suffer in silence. We don’t want people to become insular. It’s not your fault you’re being targeted - it’s the abuser who should be ashamed. It’s really strange we’re asking people to travel in groups in this day and age. It’s effectively shutting down the community, shutting down the way we work, because people can’t travel by themselves.”

West Yorkshire Police chiefs say they have not seen a marked increase in reported hate crimes but urged any victims or witnesses of such incidents to come forward.

Asst Ch Const Angela Williams said: “Racist, xenophobic or prejudicial behaviour because of someone’s faith has no place in our communities and we all have a part to play in challenging it.”