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Mohammed Saleem, a retired grandfather, was walking home from prayers at his local mosque in Small Heath, Birmingham, on the night of April 29, 2013.

He walked with a cane at the age of 82.

Pavlo Lapshyn, a 25-year-old Ukrainian PhD student, killed the elderly man by stabbing him three times in the back with a hunting knife.

The wound at the top of his body went all the way into him.

Lapshyn, a white nationalist who wanted to “increase ethnic tension,” planted explosives outside three mosques in the West Midlands area in June and July, targeting the busiest times of the week – Friday congregations.

He was later apprehended and pleaded guilty to all charges brought against him under the 1883 Explosive Substances Act and the 2006 Terrorism Act. He has been imprisoned in the United Kingdom for at least 40 years.

Saleem’s heinous murder, which Lapshyn committed just five days after arriving in the UK on a work visa, devastated the Muslim community in the United Kingdom.

His funeral was attended by over 5,000 people.

However, Maz Saleem, Saleem’s daughter, believes that more must be done to recognize Islamophobia as a harmful phenomenon.

She is now urging the UK government to declare Islamophobia a criminal offense.

“We need to bring Islamophobia back to the table,” she told Al Jazeera. “Islamophobia has been rising longer than the [so-called] war on terror. Muslims get attacked for the way they look and dress.”


She’s asking people to share their own testimonies of Islamophobic crimes and violence on social media as part of her initiative.

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“Mohammed Saleem could have been any of us. That’s why we invite people to share their experiences under the hashtag #IAmMohammedSaleem.”

She also wants the UK to introduce an official legal definition of Islamophobia, which she hopes would “once and for all” put an end to it.

“We need society to recognise the weight of systematic racism that many of us experience daily.

“Islamophobic attacks don’t happen in a vacuum. Individuals are emboldened to act on their hate by government-approved anti-Muslim policies. If we want to put a stop to this, we need to put a name on it.

“How can we tackle the rise of Islamophobia without a definition of what it is?”

The campaign will continue until the eighth anniversary of her father’s death, which is in April.

Saleem was the father of seven children and the grandfather of 23 grandchildren.

He arrived in the UK from Pakistan in 1957 to assist in the post-World War II reconstruction of the region.

“He would take triple shifts at the bakery to feed us all. He was a kind, beautiful and hard-working man who empowered his daughters to be politically aware and grateful for having a home in the UK.”

Maz Saleem, his youngest brother, had a close relationship with him.

“I remember when I received the phone call of his death. The shock of that still lives in me. It doesn’t go away,” she said.

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Mr Justice Sweeney of the High Court convicted Lapshyn.

“You clearly hold extreme right-wing white supremacist views, and you were motivated to commit the offences by religious and racial hatred in the hope that you would ignite racial conflict and cause Muslims to leave the area where you were living,” Sweeney said in the sentencing remarks.

According to Maz, inaccurate representations of the attack have exacerbated the Saleem family’s suffering.

“He (Lapshyn) is not labelled as terrorist in mainstream media. They call him mosque bomber, killer or a far-right attacker. Never a terrorist”.

Anti-Muslim hatred has increased in recent years, according to government reports and the hate crime monitor Tell MAMA UK.

Islamophobia has been described by a cross-party parliamentary group and supported through civil society and by most political parties – except the ruling Conservatives – as “rooted in racism and form of racism that targets Muslimness or perceived Muslimness,” according to Yasmine Adam, a spokeswoman for the Muslim Council of Britain.

“It is a glaring omission from our governing party, who should be leading the fight against all forms of bigotry,” said Adam.


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