Rampant reports of acid attacks targeting Muslims are being shared online across the British capital this week, with accompanying warnings for “people of Asian appearance” to be vigilant.
This follows an acid attack in east London last week that left an aspiring model and her cousin with life-changing injuries and is now being treated as a hate crime.
But so far, it has not been immediately made clear whether all the incidents detailed on social media have been reported to police as hate crimes.
A local imam was quoted by British press as saying that despite some acid attacks being classed as robberies and targeting non-Muslims, there was still fear among the Muslim community.
“Even my own wife was saying to me yesterday that she didn’t want to leave the house because she might face an acid attack.”
On social media, meanwhile, warnings have included: “Please be careful, especially if you’re brown. These attacks seem to be targeting south Asians or ‘Muslim looking people’.”
On Whatsapp, this message is circulating in London: “There are people posing as delivery men going door to door and throwing ACID on Muslims. Please. Be. Safe.”
According to The Independent, one attack on a man of Asian origin who had a noxious substance squirted at him and his car stolen was being treated as a robbery.
“There were also social media reports of two attacks in East Ham on Friday – one involving a woman being partially burned on her doorstep by someone pretending to be a delivery man, and the other of a woman being targeted by moped-driving acid attackers in the Plashet Grove area,” the newspaper reported.
“In another attack cited on social media, outside Whipps Cross Hospital in Leytonstone on 8 June, the victim, junior doctor Syed Nadeem, 44, said four masked men on mopeds had rushed towards him shouting: ‘Give me your money or I’ll cut your throat.’ Mr Nadeem was sprayed in the face with acid and suffered burns to his face and arms,” The Independent added.
Nadeem reportedly said that National Health Service staff had been sent a warning on WhatsApp after Emergency doctors treated three other victims for acid burns in one hour. He said: “We got a text message saying people had been knocking on car windows and when you open it, they throw acid in.”
A statement by the Muslim Council of Britain obtained by a middle east based news agency has cited the “shocking spate of hate crimes against Muslims in the past few weeks. In particular, two Muslim cousins suffered an acid attack in east London, leaving their faces disfigured for life.”
Harun Khan, Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain said the attacks underline “the importance to tackle anti-Muslim hate crime seriously.
“The Muslim Council of Britain has been contacted several times about recent attacks on Muslims, and I regret to say that there is a sense of fear amongst some sections of our community, particularly amongst Muslim women.
“It is imperative that not only is there political leadership on ensuring a zero-tolerance policy on Islamophobia and all forms of hate crime – but also that the rhetoric translates into action and the many recommendations in the Hate Crime Action Plan are actually put into practice.”
On the other hand a man suffered severe burns after being squirted with acid as he walked with a woman in Mile End in East London
Police say they are hunting three youths who attacked the 27-year-old man as he walked, pushing his bicycle, with the 40-year-old woman in Mile End yesterday.
The attack took place at 2am in Burdett Road.
The acid is believed to have caught the woman’s clothing but she escaped serious injury after turning her face away at the last minute, according to witnesses.
The man remains in hospital but his injuries are not life-threatening. There have been no arrests.
Cab driver Hassan Ali, 40, said: “We heard screams and crying coming from outside so we rushed out. You could see her T-shirt just melting away.
“She wanted to take off her clothes but we said ‘don’t touch anything, just chuck on water’.”
The incident follows a series of acid attacks in London including the shocking assault on a Muslim student and her cousin in their car in Beckton less than two weeks ago.
Aspiring model Resham Khan and Jameel Muhktar were attacked at traffic lights on June 21 when they were out celebrating Resham’s 21st birthday.
Scotland Yard say they are treating the attack as a hate crime and have said they want to speak to John Tomlin, 24, in connection with the incident. He remains at large. Detectives said the latest incident was not being treated as a hate crime, adding that the victims and the assailants were known to each other.
In another acid incident a police officer was sprayed with a “noxious substance” as he responded to reports of youths driving dangerously on a moped in Waltham Forest on Monday.
The Met said an officer had attended the incident in Billet Road at 7.10pm in a marked police car when the youths drove up and one them squirted a substance through the open window.
The officer was not injured but his uniform was slightly damaged.
Anyone with information about the attack in Mile End should call Bethnal Green CID on 020 7275 4550.