Communal unrest in Leicester: Is influential Islamist YouTuber Mohammed Hijab inciting Muslims?
A temple was vandalised and a flag burned in UK’s Leicester after ongoing tension over an India-Pakistan cricket match escalated. Amid this, videos have emerged of Islamist influencer Mohammed Hijab allegedly provocating Muslims and threatening Hindus
The streets of the United Kingdom’s Leicester are silent but tension continues to grip the air three days after Hindu and Muslim groups clashed, forcing intervention from the police.
Sixteen police officers and a police dog were injured in the violence, BBC reports. So far 47 people have been arrested and one has been jailed after he pleaded guilty to possession of a weapon.
A temple has been vandalised and cars and other properties owned by the Hindu community were destroyed in Leicester, according to Rashmi Sawant, a human rights activist. The videos circulating online show a man pulling down a flag outside a temple on Melton Road, Leicester and another being burned.
Dharmesh Lakhani, who works with Hindu temples across Leicester, confirmed one flag outside the Shivalaya temple in Belgrave Road was removed while the other was burned, describing it as “unacceptable”, according to a report in The Guardian.
The Muslims have accused young Hindu men of taking out an impromptu procession, chanting Jai Shri Ram, and throwing glass bottles at them.
The weekend unrest was among the latest of several incidents, including violence after an India and Pakistan cricket match on 28 August.
Among those arrested for the recent disorder were people from outside the city, reports BBC.
Eight of those arrested were not from the city, leading to concerns that outsiders were causing trouble. Five came from Birmingham, while one came from Solihull, one from Luton and one gave an address in Hounslow, The Guardian reported in an exclusive.
Interestingly, an influential Islamist YouTuber Mohammed Hijab was reportedly in Leicester as the tension between Hindus and Muslims escalated.
Mohammed Hijab appears to have been in Leicester after the communal tensions peaked between Hindus and Muslims.
— Wasiq Wasiq (@WasiqUK) September 19, 2022
Who is Mohammed Hijab?
Mohammed Hijab is a British-Egyptian social media influencer with 146k followers on Instagram, 80.9k followers on Twitter, and 597K subscribers on YouTube. He calls himself an author and academic with interests in political philosophy and religion. He mostly puts out provocative content related to Muslims and Islam aimed at a younger audience.
A regular at Speaker’s Corner in London’s Hyde Park, he is known to hold extremist and antisemitic views.
Community Security Trust (CST), a charity that protects British Jews in the country, in a research briefing said that May and June 2021 saw the most intense period of anti-Jewish hatred in the UK in recent years with record levels of antisemitic hate incidents, anti-Jewish chants and placards on public demonstrations, incitement from radical Islamist extremists. Hijab’s name appears in this document.
In May, an Israeli solitary rally in London attracted counter-demonstrations of around 60 Islamist activists, which has attended by Hijab. He compared the gathering of Jews to an event in support of the Islamic State, Al Qaeda or Hamas.
“We don’t care about death, we love death,” he said, which the CST report points out is an evocative jihadist slogan often used to emphasise the commitment to fighting and martyrdom.
He was also reportedly involved in a provocative stunt targeting the Jewish community at Golders Green in north London, threatening a pro-Israeli demonstrator with a dog who took a wrong turn and found himself in the middle of the pro-Palestinian Islamist counterdemonstration.
“If those dogs come close to us again, we will see it as an act of aggression and we will kill those dogs! We’ll put them down,” he told a police officer. He has reportedly led marches against the Jews in London, screaming, “We will find some Jews, we want their blood.”
What is he doing in Leicester?
A serial provocateur, Hijab was reportedly seen in Leicester and that is worrisome.
The YouTuber has been keeping an eye on the situation, retweeting updates by Majid Freeman, a local activist from the city, who was in the thick of the weekend’s violence. In videos posted by Freeman from Belgrave Road, the baton-wielding police officers can be seen asking the crowds to get back.
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Freeman has accused Hindu mobs of “throwing glass bottles at Muslims, taunting the community and physically beating people up randomly”, according to The Guardian report.
Hijab’s Twitter account is replete with tweets and retweets of hate comments against Hindus and India. He endorsed a tweet from Freeman in which he wrote, “ Muslims from ALL backgrounds in #Leicester are united… We won’t allow this #Hindutva extremism to spread here. This isn’t India where we’re the minority & they have the state supporting them.”
Muslims from ALL backgrounds in #Leicester are united. Whether they be Indian, Pakistani, Bengali, Somali, Arab etc. We’re here united as one. We won’t allow this #Hindutva extremism to spread here. This isn’t India where we’re the minority & they have the state supporting them.
— Majid Freeman (@Majstar7) September 17, 2022
On his YouTube channel, Hijab posted a video of a gathering of alleged Hindus marching down the streets of Leicester. In another video, which has garnered 1.8 lakh views, he can be seen provoking Muslims in the city, calling Hindus gangsters, and mocking the religion. “Don’t ever come out like that again,” he threatened the community.
What’s the situation in Leicester now?
Leicestershire Police said that no new incidents of disorder had been reported from the city, reports BBC.
Sir Peter Soulsby, the city’s mayor, said it appeared to be the first evidence that people were travelling into Leicester to take part in the clashes. “It does suggest that there are people with other battles to fight who are coming to Leicester to fight them. It’s distressing that they choose to do it in our city. We pride ourselves on good relations between communities,” he told The Guardian.
How has India reacted?
The High Commission of India released a statement on Twitter strongly condemning “the violence perpetrated against the Indian community in Leicester, and vandalisation of premises and symbols of Hindu religion”.
— India in the UK (@HCI_London) September 19, 2022
“We have strongly taken up this matter with the UK authorities and have sought immediate action against those involved in these attacks,” it added.
With inputs from agencies
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