Cafe owner responds to '˜Punish a Muslim Day' with day of peace
Manzoor Ali, who runs Barakah Foods in Manchester, is urging Britain to spread a happy, positive message on Tuesday after letters encouraging hate crime were circulated on social media.
Racist fliers inciting violence towards Muslims surfaced on March 9. Police were called after some letters were posted through doors of properties across London, Cardiff, the Midlands, and Yorkshire.
Ali, 44, has countered the propaganda by planning a peaceful community effort.
The businessman said: “My niece showed me the leaflet on WhatsApp. I was absolutely horrified by how disgusting it was.
“It’s astonishing that people want to spread this hate. Even if they’re joking, people latch on to it. The person behind this has lit a match and those sharing it are throwing fuel on the fire.
“We’ll be there all day with tea and biscuits and cake. People are free to come and go and have a chat if they want. We want to spread a message of love.”
“There’s a minuscule minority intent on division and this plays into their hands. People on both sides will respond to this.
“I refuse to rise to it. We all need to react with honesty, compassion and love.”
Ali, together with Barakah Foods staff, friends, family, and volunteers from his community, are set to give out free tea and cake in Chorlton on April 3. He said everyone is welcome and hopes the offering provides an opportunity to engage with as many people as possible.
“We see it more as a ‘Banish Hate Day’,” Ali said. “We’ll be there all day with tea and biscuits and cake. People are free to come and go and have a chat if they want. We want to spread a message of love.
“It’s about positive vibes.”
Ali also said that while ‘Love a Muslim Day’ fliers aimed at countering the racism were obviously designed with good intentions, he thinks singling out segments of society is unnecessary.
“I don’t want to be seen as just a Muslim,” he told i. “We’re lucky to have a strong and supportive community here. I’m just a neighbour like anyone else – and so are my friends and family and colleagues.
“There are groups trying to cause evil. There are enough of us ready to stop them.”
Similar efforts are planned elsewhere in the country. On social media, as well as the Love a Muslim Day fliers being widely shared, organisation Stand Up To Racism has arranged a ‘day of solidarity’ with marches up and down the country.
Despite these moves, many in the Muslim community remain apprehensive about Tuesday and the threat of violence.
Some parents have decided to keep their children home from school, and messages advising precaution have also been seen on messaging app WhatsApp.
“Avoid stopping if someone asks you a question, in particular if it is out of public view,” the warning reads.
Manzoor said he and his wife Aiysha started Barakah Foods by ‘selling a few curries’, and now operate a successful takeaway. The couple also run an eponymous food aid initiative delivering groceries and toiletries to those in need.
Barakah Food Aid is maintained on donations alone and puts together food parcels which are delivered to people in Manchester.
Charity Tell Mama monitors and offers support and advice to Muslims who have experienced hate. It is not a replacement for the emergency services.