Nahella Ashraf, 46, was told she “shouldn’t be here” and had her hijab grabbed at a London restaurant (Photo: Migrant Echoes)
Elham Asaad Buaras
A British diner has spoken to The Muslim News about her ordeal after she was told she “shouldn’t be here” and had her hijab grabbed at a London restaurant.
Nahella Ashraf, 46, was having dinner with friends in a fish and chips takeaway in King Street when a man who had been sitting behind the group tried to grab her by the arm whilst shouting abuse about not tolerating people like her here.
Police have confirmed that the attack is being viewed as a hate crime. Ashraf said she was eating with friends at around 8.30pm when the incident occurred.
She said: “As he went to leave the takeaway he grabbed me and started shouting about the fact that I had no right to be here and that he wouldn’t tolerate people like myself. It was all very fast.”
Shocked staff and other customers pushed her attacker away, but Ashraf said: “He just carried on shouting about how people like me were killing people. Then he spat in my face before being pushed out of the takeaway.”
She said nothing like this had happened to her before and added: “I think what’s really shocking is that it would happen in a place like Hammersmith when I’m surrounded by other people. It was very public in a busy fish and chip shop. Obviously, I was very shocked and angry as well. If it can happen in a place like this it’s probably happening in a lot more places where we’re just not hearing about it.”
Ashraf, who lives in Manchester but spends much of her time in London working, was speaking at a protest and vigil held on January 11 evening in Lyric Square Hammersmith, which was organised by Stand Up To Racism in the aftermath of her attack.
She told The Muslim News, “People need to start speaking up about these attacks. We all know someone who’s had to deal with some kind of racism, especially Muslim women.”
She blamed the media, politicians and the current Conservative Government for turning Muslims into “scapegoats to detract attention away from the real issues that are affecting working class people in this country. It’s their austerity agenda and the attacks on the welfare state that are the real problems.”
“I have as much right as the next people to dress as I please and I make no apologies for that. This won’t stop me from continuing to live my life. If anything I think it makes me angrier and determined to beat the racists.”
In the aftermath of her attack John Baker, from Stand Up To Racism, helped arrange the vigil on January 11 in Lyric Square Hammersmith.
He said: “We regard this as outrageous and intolerable hence the protest. We need to nip this kind of incident locally. If it goes unchallenged this will embolden them and there will be more and more of it.”
Ashraf said: “It’s great that the local Stand Up To Racism organised the vigil. It’s important that we show that the racists are not the majority. We need more people to get involved and push back the racism from the thugs on the street but also the racist narrative that is coming from the Government and mainstream press.”
A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police told The Muslim News they are treating the incident as a hate crime, “The suspect approached the victim, who was aged in her 40s and wearing a hijab. He then assaulted her by spitting in her face. Officers attended but the suspect had already fled the scene, in the direction of Hammersmith Underground Station.”
He added, “The victim did not require medical treatment. The assault is being treated by police as a racially motivated hate crime. The suspect is described as a male of Arab appearance, aged in his 30s, about 5ft 9ins tall, with facial hair, balding head and a non-British accent. He was wearing a green hooded jacket.”