Brits tell London Tube terror suspect: #YouAintNoMuslimBruv

A bystander's shout during Saturday's stabbing attack on the London Tube has gone viral, and is the type of ideological condemnation that Cameron's government has looked for from the UK's Muslim community. 

Suzanne Plunkett/ Reuters
A police officer is stationed outside Leytonstone Underground station in east London, Britain on December 6. On Saturday, December 5, a man attacked several passengers at the station, severely injuring one, before police subdued him with a Taser. The incident is being investigated as a possible terrorist attack.

A British suspect who wounded at least two passengers on the London Tube Saturday is in police custody, where the case is being treated as a possible terrorist attack. 

"This is for Syria," some bystanders reported the young man yelling before stabbing a 56-year-old man who suffered serious injuries, as well as inflicting minor injuries on another male passenger and threatening a woman around 7:00 Saturday evening. Police at the Leytonstone station, in east London, Tasered the 29 year-old suspect and pinned him to the floor as onlookers filmed the incident in footage that quickly went viral.

On Twitter, one phrase caught on video has quickly become a rallying cry for Muslims frustrated at violent extremists' efforts to hijack their religion: "You ain't no Muslim, bruv!" one witness is heard shouting as police subdue the suspect. 

Muslims and non-Muslims alike from around the globe continued tweeting the phrase throughout the weekend, including politicians, such as MP Sadiq Khan, the Labour Party's 2016 candidate for Mayor of London. The words even made their way to a subway sign:

Prime Minister David Cameron has repeatedly called for Muslim communities to join the government in an effort to defeat radicalization, unveiling an official Counter-Extremism strategy last month that aims to curb extremist Islamists' influence on young Britons, in particular. But analysts have cautioned that the government walks a fine line, potentially alienating moderate Muslim communities even further if they feel that the new measures amount to surveillance or distrust. 

One widely retweeted message suggested that grassroots social media might prove more effective than government policies:

The UK has been on heightened alert for terrorist attacks since ISIS's massacre in Paris last month, but the British government has been grappling with how to defeat homegrown terror for many years. It has foiled numerous plots since a 2005 suicide bomb attack on a public bus and subways that killed 52 people and wounded 770 more. The attacks were planned by a British Al-Qaeda operative. 

But the idea behind #YouaintnoMuslimbruv, which seeks to dissociate radical ideology from the beliefs of most British Muslims, is also needed to fight a rising scourge of attacks, both verbal and physical, against the country's Muslim citizens.

Since the November 13 attacks in Paris – a two hour "Chunnel" ride from London – the number of anti-Muslim hate crimes reported to London police has tripled from 24 per week to 76. Reports range from being pushed, or spat on, to the November case of a woman in a Muslim head covering being pushed into the path of a subway train. Her attacker has been charged with attempted murder. 

"It was the first time since [the 2005 terrorist attack] I've felt so unsafe in my own city," London documentary-maker Saba Zaman told the BBC of having her hijab grabbed by a stranger earlier this year. "If I see another Muslim woman on the Tube, now I get on the same carriage just in case something might happen."

According to a widely-reported 2015 study from the Islamic Human Rights Commission, 66 percent of British Muslims have experienced verbal abuse because of their religion, and nearly 18 percent report physical abuse. 

But Mussurut Zia, a representative of the Muslim Women's Network UK, told the BBC that she sees signs of change: "I was getting tired that each time something happened I had to come out and say 'I was not part of that'," she says, "but now having people of other faiths saying 'we're with you' and it's 'us against them' it's a positive out of something so negative." 

On Friday, for example, Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn attended an anti-Islamophobia rally in northern London's Finsbury Park, where he said attempts to divide Britons with hate "will fail." 

A 2011 census records that 4.8 percent of people in England and Wales are Muslim, although, as is also true in the United States, many people inaccurately believe that number to be much higher. Roughly 1 percent of the United States is Muslim. 

In "Environment of Hate: The New Normal for Muslims in the UK," a report by the Islamic Human Rights Commission, the authors say higher standards are needed in the media in order to prevent the incitement of prejudice. Also essential are strong coalitions between human rights groups, Muslim organizations, and other community leaders.

Mr. Cameron has called fighting extremists "the struggle of our generation," and suggested a variety of policies to monitor radicals and help communities, and parents, watch for radicalization in their teenagers. He has emphasized that the fight against radical Islam benefits Muslim communities in particular, and is a defense of British values shared by people of all faiths. However, critics warn that some aspects risk further alienating young British Muslims.

"I know too how much you hate the extremists who are seeking to divide our communities and how you loathe that damage they do," he told Muslim listeners at a speech in July:

For all our successes as multi-racial, multi-faith democracy, we have to confront a tragic truth that there are people born and raised in this country who don’t really identify with Britain – and who feel little or no attachment to other people here. Indeed, there is a danger in some of our communities that you can go your whole life and have little to do with people from other faiths and backgrounds.

At the time, he recommended supporting Muslims to speak out about the damage terrorist groups such as ISIS have inflicted on Muslim communities, both abroad and at home.

Many Muslim clerics in the UK have reported receiving death threats from groups like ISIS, in addition to feeling the pressures of popular Islamophobia in Britain, creating new challenges for young leaders.

To ISIS, "I am not any different to any other person in this cafe, or in a restaurant in Paris. For them, I am not a Muslim either," Imam Qari Asim, who leads a mosque in Leeds, England, told the Guardian. 

of stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Unlimited digital access $11/month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.