By Nadia Freeman


When I heard about the concept of Punish a Muslim Day and Smash a Fenian Day, I felt sick to my stomach. I did not want to believe that in today’s society there are people who are capable of being so brazen about hurting and committing crimes against people. My first thought was this would just be one socially disaffected person that the internet has given a global platform to promote their sickening ideas. 

However, it did not take long to come to the sobering conclusion that, while even those who harbour negative thoughts about other groups would still never dream of doing such activities, there remains a small minority who are enough to pose a risk to the safety and livelihoods of the people we know and care about.

My colleagues and I were at first reluctant to blog or mention this topic. We were caught between asking whether talking about the issue publically just gave the vile people who came up with these concepts more attention? Or did ignoring this issue only contribute to the continuing problem in UK society where prejudice and hate-crime often go unaddressed?

The threats in themselves are nothing short of juvenile, using a meaningless points-based system for committing hate crime akin to a game of Scrabble.  There is merit in deflating the power of such threats by ridiculing and shaming those that made them, as the Daily Show’s recent segment and multiple articles and blogs have done. In doing so, however, we must acknowledge that no matter how feeble the concept may be, it has the potential to incite violence, and its viral nature is a reflection of rising islamophobia and sectarian tension. Over the last year, we have witnessed an increase in confidence amongst extremist groups promoting intolerance, that can be attributed to rising inequality, the media’s portrayal of minority groups, political responses to economic and safety insecurities and a lack of reprimand by world leaders to demonstrations of intolerance. In Scotland, alone islamophobic offences have increased by 89%  and 7 out of 10 people have come across sectarian language on social media in Scotland.

What the ‘Punish a Muslim’ and ‘Bash a Fenian’ flyers have provided is a sobering reminder of our responsibilities in our roles as parents, teachers, journalists, leaders, and civil society members to demonstrate what ‘loving thy neighbour,’ a creed followed across multiple faiths, really means. To love means more than just being polite. It demands us to look out for one another, challenge prejudice whenever we can and support each other in the fight to achieve equality and fairness.