A British-born Muslim woman has told how she was spat at, abused and assaulted in an apparent Islamophobic attack in Hammersmith.
Naheela Ashraf was having dinner with friends in a fish and chips takeaway in King Street on Friday (January 6) evening when a man screamed abuse at her, grabbed hold of her and tried to rip off her hijab .
The 46-year-old, who lives in Manchester but spends much of her time in London working, was speaking at a protest and vigil held on Wednesday (January 11) evening in Lyric Square Hammersmith, which was organised by Stand Up To Racism in the aftermath of her attack.
Police have confirmed that the attack is being viewed as a racially motivated hate crime.
Members of the public who picked up fliers and other literature from the anti-racism protest said they were shocked at the crime.
Ms Ashraf said she was eating with friends at a fish and chip restaurant at around 8.30pm when the incident occurred.
She told getwestlondon : “There was a guy sat behind us and I hadn’t really noticed him.
“But as he went to leave the takeaway he grabbed me and started shouting about the fact that I had no right to be here and that he wouldn’t tolerate people like myself.
"It was all very fast.”
Shocked staff and other customers pushed her attacker away, but Ms Ashraf said: “He just carried on talking about how people like me were killing people.
"Then he spat on me as he was pushed out of the takeaway.”
According to Stand Up To Racism, the man also attempted to pull off the hijab - a veil worn by some Muslim women which usually covers the head and chest - being worn by the Ms Ashraf.
She said nothing like this had happened to her before and added: “I think what’s really shocking is that it would happen in a place like Hammersmith when I’m surrounded by other people.
"It’s not like I was out very late walking down the street.
"It was very public and it was a busy fish and chip shop.
“Obviously I was very shocked, and angry as well.
"I feel like if it can happen in a place like this its probably happening in a lot more places where we’re just not hearing about it.”
People returning home from work and walking past the vigil were shocked to learn of the incident.
Jonah Malika, from Hammersmith, said: “I think it’s disgusting. I support this vigil. As soon as it happens to one person to happens to everyone and that has to stop.
“We all have to stick together.”
A woman from Shepherd’s Bush added: “I don’t have the words to describe what I’ve heard. It’s just ludicrous.
“It’s madness, I don’t understand it. For someone to do that, It’s not normal.”
John Baker, from Stand Up To Racism, helped arrange the vigil.
He said: “We regard this as outrageous and intolerable hence the protest.
"We need to nip this kind of incident locally.
“If it is goes unchallenged this will embolden them and there will be more and more of it.”
Police say the assailant’s comments were Islamophobic and is being treating the attack as a racially motivated hate crime.
He had fled the scene heading towards Hammersmith Tube station before police arrived.
The suspect is of Arab appearance, in his 30s and about 5ft 9ins tall, police said.
He had facial hair and spoke with a non-British accent. He was wearing a green-hooded jacket.
Anyone with information should call police on 101.
Incidents included graffiti daubed on the Polish Social and Cultural Association centre in King Street in the immediate aftermath of the Brexit vote , which police said was being treated as a hate crime.
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