Muslim woman student is stabbed – so why can’t we say that the fact she ‘looked Muslim’ might be a motive in her murder?

  • This posting is in reference to the tragic stabbing of Nahid Al-Manea in Colchester. Police said that they were investigating the possibility that the murder was motivated by the fact that she was visibly Muslim wearing an abaya and headscarf. There have also been questions raised about a similar stabbing of James Atfield.


    One of the national newspapers asked me my thoughts on the police response to the terrible incident of the Muslim woman stabbed who was wearing visible Muslim clothing.

    My thoughts, jotted briefly are below. When I put these thoughts forward, I was told that they wanted not my thoughts ‘as a Muslim woman’ but an ‘alternative viewpoint’:

    – finally! the recognition that muslim women are highly vulnerable is being raised at a national level

    – i’m shocked at the negativity that is surrounding the police suggesting this may be a possible reason for the attack. It’s as though how dare Muslim women say that they are being attacked for being visibly Muslim! Why such vehement denial that it is a possibility? As with all crimes, the police have some theories and I’m glad this has been recognised as one possibility. Nobody is saying this for sure, simply that it is one angle. We know that hate crimes against Muslims have increased manyfold recently. So why shouldn’t this be one motive? To me it smacks of a wider public denial that there is a growth of hate against Muslims. Or even that it is ok to attack Muslims, especially women.

    – if this is a legitimate line of enquiry, then why should the police keep quiet? Generally they share their lines of enquiry, what is different here?

    – If anything, this poor student came here with a hope of doing everything that is demanded of Muslim women – ‘free’ herself, come to the west, gain an education. ¬†Why can’t we square in our minds that she was a practising Muslim too, and that we have a problem in our society dealing with this?

    – In my view it is people’s response that is bizarre – and that is what is damaging to community relations – why can’t we admit that hatred against Muslims is an issue and that women bear the brunt of this?

    – Finally, if the police did not pursue this line of enquiry, or worse if they are pressured into dropping this line of enquiry, then that would be even more damaging to community relations. It is as bad practice to rule it out as it would be to say it was the sole factor or the only factor of investigation.

    Update: this is stream of consciousness writing, so some further thoughts with inputs from various other Muslim women (thank you!):

    – The police have said it is one line of enquiry, in a seemingly matter of fact way just as in many murders they talk of many lines of enquiry. My problem with saying they shouldn’t mention it ‘due to community tensions’ stems from the fact that our broad population can’t accept that this is a possibility, that somehow it is an abnormal aberration which can be an actual reason for such nastiness in what is obviously our lovely Muslim-friendly society. I actually think it shows a more balanced ‘healthy’ (if that’s the right word in such a horrible context) to be able to be honest and say yes this is a possibility just like several other possibilities. For both Muslims and the anti-Muslim brigade to be milking this as either ‘see!!!! we told you!’ versus ‘how dare Muslims be victims’ shows a lack of acceptance of due process and legitimacy that this could be anti-Muslim, or it might not be.

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