‘Punish A Muslim Day’ Flops

JOSHUA LOTT/AFP/Getty Images)
An interfaith rally in Chicago (Photo: JOSHUA LOTT/AFP/Getty Images)

April 3 was billed as “Punish A Muslim Day.” Instead, non-Muslims in the U.S. and UK rallied in support of Muslims.

Letters advertising “Punish a Muslim Day” were first sent to British Muslim community leaders about a month ago. They later spread to the United States. The letters encouraged citizens to attack or kill Muslims in the street, offering “points” for doing so.

The leaflet awarded 50 points for verbally abusing a Muslim, 100 points for beating up a Muslim and 500 points for killing a Muslim. Many thought the leaflets and the day were a hoax.

London’s Metropolitan Police told the Evening Standard ahead of April 3 there was no “credible information” of planned hate crimes. Yet many Muslims worried about violence or harassment against them and advised each other to be careful on social media. Many Islamic leaders and media outlets shared information about the day widely, warning people to lock their doors and not travel alone.

But instead of the feared pogrom, non-Muslims responded overwhelmingly with empathy, kindness and public displays of inclusivity.

Hardly any anti-Muslim assaults were reported occurring in either the U.S. or the UK. The website Ladbible reported that one Muslim woman was assaulted when someone poured liquid on her.

Instead, thousands of people showed up to support the Muslim community.

Activists organized “Protect a Muslim Day” in which volunteers pledged to escort Muslims who were feeling vulnerable. A different group organized “Love A Muslim Day,” encouraging people to perform acts of kindness to Muslims instead.

At Newcastle Central Mosque in the UK, volunteers formed a human chain around the building to demonstrate solidarity.

The flop of “Punish A Muslim Day” is encouraging. It shows that despite the existence of anti-Muslim bigotry (which Clarion Project will continue to challenge), the vast majority of ordinary people are not frothing at the mouth waiting for the signal to begin lynching minorities. On the contrary, they are decent, law abiding people, many of whom are willing to go out of their way to support and protect those under threat.

What “Punish A Muslim Day” did achieve was to show how a handful of people can sow fear and terror in a community just by maximizing media coverage of a threat, without actually doing anything.

 

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Elliot Friedland
Elliot Friedland is a research fellow at Clarion Project.