United Kingdom

Barrister tells of racial abuse on bus amid warnings pandemic is fuelling hatred

Her harrowing experience comes against a backdrop of rising hate crimes since lockdown was first imposed last year. 

Recent figures from the London Assembly showed the number of recorded hate crimes on London buses jumped from 43 in May last year to 115 in June. 

More widely across the capital, Scotland Yard was called to deal with more than 21,000 incidents of race-related hate crime between January 2020 and January 2021. 

There was a stark rise in offences throughout the year, with 1,227 hate crimes reported to police in April 2020, rising to 2,385 in June. 

Outside of London, Greater Manchester Police saw reported hate crime jump by one-third in June 2020 compared to the previous June. 

Tell MAMA, a group which supports and records anti-Muslim hate crime in the UK, said the pandemic had helped fan the flames of intolerance. 

A spokesman said: “The pandemic has led to a significant rise in online anti-Muslim hatred and racism, and we believe that people spending more time online and going down ‘rabbit holes’ of conspiracy web-sites and hate based material are fuelling some of this.

“Also, some people have insecure futures because of the pandemic and it is easy to blame ‘the other’. 

“This allied with material that has been falsely circulated about ‘Muslims congregating’ and thereby spreading the Coronavirus are all factors for the rise in online hatred.”

People from Muslim backgrounds have become targets during the pandemic due to the “rabbit holes” of online conspiracies, campaigners have said as a barrister spoke out about a hate crime. 

Aqsa Hussain, a pupil in criminal law, described on social media how a bus passenger racially abused her before telling her she needed to “stop breathing”.

She said the woman on the bus told her that her “particles” in the atmosphere were causing Covid. 

“I let her sing her tune until she pounced on me too,” she wrote on Twitter.

“I restrained her (as I’m luckily taught to do) and eventually left the bus.”

Ms Hussain said her assailant “clearly had her issues” but she had decided against reporting it to the police as she knew from her experience of the criminal justice system it could take years to resolve.

She said it was a “sad sad situation” but “thankfully, I’m not physically hurt”. 

Her post, which has been liked and retweeted by tens of thousands of people, continued: “I'm a martial artist. I've trained my whole life for situations like this. I'm OK. 

“I worry for people like my hijab-wearing mum who (pre-lockdown) deals with abuse at work from racist customers almost every single day but refuses to stop working. Hate crime is very very real.

“And, the pandemic has no doubt exacerbated all things negative - in this case, racism.”

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