Islamophobia: One Woman’s Experience

It was a memorable day for me, my daughter, grandson, in fact for my family. We were on our way to watch a film from South Woodford to Ilford. It is a trip we have made many times before. We were 10 minutes into our journey when we turned into a small road and as we were moving suddenly my daughter who was driving the car was unexpectedly forced to stop and attacked by a gang of thugs, four in one car and two on a motorbike. As we were about to cross through this small road, the car almost blocked my daughter’s exit and cornered her and was forced to stop with flashing lights.  Instead they stopped and cornered my daughter so there was no space for her to move out and they pulled out what seemed to be a huge iron ball and smashed it against the driver side of the window where my daughter was sitting. They were shouting “let’s smash the car”. They then moved to the side and my daughter rushed out quickly.

I was completely in shock, the window was shattered, I thought it was a gun. My daughter’s face, hair and clothes was blasted with tiny pieces of glass fragments. Glass shattered to my side where I was sitting opposite my daughter. I thanked God that my daughter did not stay in one spot and slowly moved on to the main road.

I cannot comprehend what would have happened if the men had come back and hit out the second time. She parked on one side and my grandson called the police. Police asked if we noted the car number and we hadn’t. This was due to the flashing light and the deep shock we had clearly experienced. Even more shocking was the fact that the Police refused to come to where we were and informed us that they would come the following evening.

I was utterly distressed once I had got home. I reflected on this experience and compared it to our earliest times during the period of 1975 to 1978 when we lived in Canning Town. I remembered vividly the number of times my sons were attacked on their way to and from school. So concerned was one teacher that they had to accompany my sons home. So horrific was the brutality of raw racism of the 70’s that whilst my children were asleep, stones would be thrown through our window and my children would wake and  scream out of fear. One night someone put burning paper through our letter box and our door started burning. What happened recently to my family however was a distasteful reminder that I myself was beaten up by 14/15 year old boys in front of other people who simply stood outside the pub and watched. No one came to help or stop it. I was screaming.

Thankfully a priest and a woman came running out of the nearby church and took me inside the church and gave me water to drink and help me calm down. These three and half years were traumatic for my family alongside the handful of Asian families that lived on our estate. We received no attention or sympathy from the Council and they took no account of my situation as a single mother with five young children. I tried everything. To the best of my knowledge local officials were fully aware of the severity of racism directed against my family and a handful of others, but nothing was done. The local MP visited me but refused to speak to the Council. I learnt that there was one Housing Association willing to look at my case and accepted we were in danger. I was truly grateful to them as I was moved to South London. Police did nothing then just as they did nothing in 2017.

Outrageously police had the galls to ask me if I had known them or whether I knew where they had lived. The victims become the accused.  This incident enraged me to think of all the horrors of racism I had experienced could come back and impact me and my children once again. What really made me cross was that my grandson had to witness this level of hatred.

Alas, I am despondent to say it’s happening again at this day and age, despite laws and despite so many of us having made this country our home. We must stand up against such attacks. Although I feel devastated to have witnessed this incident and felt as helpless as I did, I want to say that I am as courageous as I was then and proud to say I will not let any bullies deter my peaceful coexistence.