Following the distribution of the ‘punish a Muslim day’ letter, Luton Mosques have been liaising with Bedfordshire Police and Luton Borough Council to ensure appropriate safeguards are in place. Their responses are included below and original communication can be found at the end of this post. We are grateful for the prompt response and reassurances from local service providers.
>> Response from Chief Constable on 17th March 2018
Thank you for your message.
As you would expect the force is deeply troubled about these letters and the community concern they are causing. As you will know the letter has been distributed nationwide and a coordinated criminal investigation is being led by police colleagues in the Northeast counter-terrorism unit. We have been and will continue to work closely to provide support to these officers and will do everything in our power to bring those responsible for these despicable offences to justice quickly. This national response allows policing to coordinate a more holistic approach and better search for those responsible for these vile acts.
We have a local plan in place and have been very active in the past few days making contact with members of the community with the intention of identifying any related offences in the county and providing reassurance that we are committed to making our communities safe and secure from this kind of crime. We have engaged with our local schools who have been provided with information and guidance on this matter.
Steve Mosley from the Community Cohesion unit is leading on our engagement and communications plan and we will make sure that members of the community are kept updated on the police response. Messages have already been circulated to the Bedsalert FaithWatch membership and further updates will be provided over the coming days. As always we are working closely with our colleagues from Luton Borough Council to ensure we have joined up partnership arrangements in place.
Added to this we have dedicated resources from our Hate crime team responding to any offences identified locally. Carl Perri as our Hate crime lead is conducting daily reviews of all hate crimes and incidents reported to the force, to identify any linked offences and ensure a fast and effective response. Carl will act as a point of contact for the Islamophobia working group and the Luton Council of Mosques and will keep you updated on local issues. As part of our trigger plan, our Force Contact Centre staff are briefed and fully aware of this matter as they will likely be the first to receive calls from the public. The entire response for the force is being conducted under the watchful eyes of Chief Superintendent Dave Boyle.
I note your comments about the 3rd of April and treating this as an ordinary day and utterly agree with your view. We will, however, be ready to respond to any incidents and as a sensible precaution in the days leading up to the 3rd and on the day itself we will be increasing patrols, visits and engagement with the public in Luton and in particular with members of our Bedfordshire wide local Muslim communities. Superintendent Greg Horsford has been appointed to manage this in such a way that we offer reassurance and do not cause undue alarm. We would value the opportunity to work closely with you and other community representatives to make sure we strike the right tone.
As mentioned earlier we will continue to work with you and communicate regularly about this issue and I am on hand along with other members of the force to meet with you if this would be of value. I am also keen to continue my visits to local schools and will be ensuring our school’s liaison officers are more visible in those schools that might be concerned about the 3rd April.
I am sure you will know my position on such a disgraceful proposition as seeking to incite division and hatred amongst our communities and this force will not tolerate this activity.
Jon Boutcher QPM Mst (Cantab)
Bedfordshire Police Headquarters, Woburn Road, Kempston, Bedford MK43 9AX
>> Response from the leader of Luton Borough Council on 17th March 2018
Thanks for your email. I like you am horrified by these letters that seem to have been going around and totally understand how offensive and worrying it is for you and the community. We sent information out to schools and members on Friday and are reviewing what else we do next week.
We are as always working closely with the Police and will, of course, keep you informed of actions we take. It is awful that such offensive and the racist material is being sent around and we are taking it very seriously.
I hope that this reassures you that we are monitoring this and will get back to you as this develops.
Assuring you of Council support as always.
>> Communications sent on 16th March 2018
Dear Police Chief Constable Jon Boutcher and Councillor Hazel Simmons,
No doubt, you are aware of the ‘punish a Muslim day letter’ posted to individuals and Muslim organisations nationally which has made headline news and is spreading virally on social media. We all agree it is deeply offensive however, we wanted to draw your attention to the increased levels of fear and anxiety this letter has caused within our community. To share some personal examples, a few days ago, my 7-year-old daughter said everyone in her school was talking about the letter. She asked me why people wanted to punish Muslims and told me how her friends urged her to stay home and avoid going outside on that particular day. As a father, it was difficult to hear such sentiments and even harder to see she is beginning to accept that she will be treated differently by some because she’s Muslim and her appearance is a visible sign of her faith. To cite another example, earlier today, a Muslim shop attendant at the Mall felt the need to show the letter to me on his phone and warn me about the dangers to my family on the 3rd April. Like many in our community, he believed things were taking a turn for the worse with this letter.
Luton mosques and community organisations have been overwhelmed by anxious community members and particularly parents. Through our work with colleagues on the Islamophobia Working Group, we are aware that Islamophobia and anti-Muslim hate crime has been on the increase locally and nationally. We recently heard the Mayor of London speak about the anti-Muslim and Islamophobic tweets he receives daily which is also a common experience for ordinary Muslims online. It is deeply saddening to see how this letter has created an air of terror in the community which is affecting the lives of ordinary Muslims living in Luton and beyond.
We know Luton has a history of active far-right extremists and there are still opportunists spreading hatred and division at any opportunity. Without being alarmist, it would be helpful to understand:
- What safeguarding measures are being put in place to reassure the Muslim community locally?
- What are the operational policing plans for the day?
- Is there a communications plan in place to respond to incidents, verify news or dispel rumours to prevent heightened hysteria?
- Have Headteachers and educational representatives received a briefing on the situation?
- Are teachers aware of signs of anti-Muslim hate crime and Islamophobia and how to report it?
Can we explore ways to show solidarity and amplify our voice around an inclusive narrative, being a tolerant town that values people from different backgrounds in order for community members, particularly youth, to feel confident and reassured?
We understand there is a need to be vigilant however we want to make our best efforts to ensure that the 3rd April should be an ordinary day just like any other day. We cannot let this day be taken away from us and be marked with terror and fear for any community.