'I am Mohammed Saleem' campaign calls on UK government to act on Islamophobia
Mohammed Saleem, 82, was tragically killed by a white supremacist terrorist, as he walked home from evening prayers at a mosque in Small Heath, Birmingham in April 2013.
Pavlo Lapshyn, who identified himself as a Neo Nazi, stabbed the elderly man three times with a knife before killing him.
Later that year, Lapshyn had planted bombs outside three mosques in the West Midlands on the Muslim holy day of Friday, a day when worshippers congregate for afternoon prayers. He was then arrested and convicted in October 2013, pleading guilty to all charges under the Terrorism Act of 2006 and has been sentenced to 40 years in prison.
Saleem's harrowing murder, which was carried out just five days after Lapshyn had arrived in the UK to work, shook the Muslim community, highlighting the growing levels of Islamophobia in the country. Saleem saw an outpouring of over 5,000 people attend her father's funeral.
"It is going to be coming up to my dad's eighth year death anniversary on April 29. Every year I highlight my father's case but this year I wanted to do something more impactful to make a change over Islamophobia which is why I started the campaign," Maz Saleem told The New Arab.
|We are living in such a time when there is an increase in Islamophobic hate crimes especially against Muslim women. How can we tackle Islamophobia if the government won't even adopt a definition of what it is
Saleem has worked tirelessly over the years campaigning for more to be done over the rise in anti-Muslim hate crimes.
"I want the government to adopt an official definition of Islamophobia as they still do not recognise my father's death as an act of terrorism. We are living in such a time when there is an increase in Islamophobic hate crimes especially against Muslim women. How can we tackle Islamophobia if the government won't even adopt a definition of what it is?"
Saleem has supported the APPG all-party parliamentary group on British Muslims report which was released in 2018, urging the government to adopt a legal definition but says that these calls have continuously been "dismissed and ignored".
The family's suffering was further increased due to inaccurate reporting of the murder of her late father from mainstream media organisations.
"My father was murdered in an Islamophobic terrorist attack but the media fails to address my father's death as being related to an act of terrorism.
"Some mainstream media had described my father's attacker as a mosque bomber, far-right attacker, or lone wolf and not addressed him for what he is – a terrorist. Whenever they refer to terrorist on our soil my dad is never listed as a victim of it."
|Read also: 'Racism, bigotry, hate crime':
To do justice by Mohammed Saleem,
UK must officially define Islamophobia
Mohammed Saleem was a father of seven children and grandfather to 23 children.
He was seen as a valued member of the community who was loved by his family and friends. Arriving to the UK in 1957, from Pakistan, he contributed to rebuilding the country after WW2.
"My dad was loved by the whole community and he always empowered us to get an education. He was a very intellectual, loving father and always said to us that education was key," Saleem tells The New Arab.
"He was such a helpful person and was highly respected in the community. He did a lot of charity work."
Saleem has fond memories of her father and recalls how he "empowered his children and worked hard so that we could have a better life". His children all became graduates and say that it was due to their father's "love and support".
|It is perhaps unsurprising given the Conservative Party's denial when it comes to Islamophobia within its own ranks, and its apparent unwillingness to recognise the prevalence of institutional racism in the UK
"It is time they (the government) show that they are taking these matters seriously by adopting the definition of Islamophobia that they expressed a need for two years ago," a spokesperson for The Muslim Council of Britain told The New Arab.
"It is perhaps unsurprising given the Conservative Party's denial when it comes to Islamophobia within its own ranks, and its apparent unwillingness to recognise the prevalence of institutional racism in the UK," the spokesperson added.
Tell MAMA, an organisation monitoring anti-Muslim hate crimes, have noted a rise in the UK in recent years. Despite the government's own reports into Islamophobia and a pledge to address the issue no action has been taken.
"It is really important that we talk about our experiences of Islamophobia to put pressure on the government to act as Islamophobia is happening every day on our streets. If we unite together to stand up to the injustice against Muslims we can pressurise and hold the Conservative government to account," Saleem added.
Read More: State Racism and Islamophobia - Remembering Mohammed Saleem
The I am Mohammed Saleem campaign invites people to share their own lived experiences of Islamophobia and support by posting videos and testimonials with the hashtag #IamMohammedSaleem.
The campaign will run throughout the month of April 2021 and hopes to shed light on the rising number of incidents of Islamophobia in the country.
Tasnim Nazeer is an award-winning journalist, author, and Universal Peace Federation Ambassador. She has written for Al Jazeera, The Guardian, The Huffington Post, Middle East Eye, CNN, BBC, and others.
Follow her here: @TasnimNazeer1