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British government condemns Islamophobic letter

BRITISH GOVERNMENT CONDEMNS ISLAMOPHOBIC LETTER

The U.K. "government condemns the content of the letters" promoting anti-Muslim hate crimes, a minister said Monday.

The condemnation of the letters sent across the U.K., which advertise a so-called "Punish a Muslim Day" on April 3, came during an urgent question session over the controversial letters and what the government will do in the face of this threat.

Victoria Atkins, a Conservative MP and the parliamentary under-secretary of state for the home department, said the government believes that the "abhorrent letters have no place in a decent society."

"This government takes hate crime and Islamophobia extremely seriously and the U.K. has a robust legislative framework to respond to it," Atkins said.

"Freedom of speech, freedom of worship, democracy, the rule of law, and equal rights define us as a society. The government is determined to promote these values actively working in partnership and alongside with the Muslim and indeed all faith communities," she added.

The under-secretary's response came in reply to an urgent question put forward by Labour MP Yasmin Qureshi following weekend reports that the Islamophobic letters were sent around and British police are investigating the incident.

"To demonstrate what we have in common is the best defense against extremists who would seek to divide us," Atkins said.

Circulating hate

The hate letter calls on people to attack Muslims in the form of verbal abuse, removing a woman's hijab or headscarf, physical assault, or using acid on them.

The counter-terrorism police said it has received reports of "potentially malicious communications sent to individuals across the U.K."

"Counter-Terrorism Police North East are coordinating the investigation at this time and will consider any potential links to existing inquiries," a police spokesperson said over the weekend.

The Met Police confirmed on Saturday that it is investigating the letter, adding that no one has yet been arrested.

The letter was posted to more than 10 people over the weekend, and it has also been circulating on messaging service WhatsApp as well as social media platforms.

The letter shows a scale of "points" based on the action taken against Muslims.

"There will be rewards based on action taken," the letter says.

The hate letter urges terrorist acts such as to "butcher a Muslim using gun, knife, vehicle or otherwise," and "burn or bomb a mosque," with "Nuke Mecca" being the top hate crime listed, offering 2,500 "points."

- 'Revulsion across our communities'

Labour MP Louise Hague said "the despicable sentiment behind these sickening letters has caused revulsion across our communities."

She asked if the government could assure parliament steps are being taken to tackle the issue of "domestic extremism" in the wake of the rising "extremist right."

Atkins said the government would refresh its Hate Crime Action Plan this year.

Criticizing anti-Muslim sentiments spread by some social media platforms, MP Wes Streeting asked whether the government would provide extra policing to give adequate security to mosques and Muslim centers in the runup to April 3.

Atkins said the government would commit to extra security and was also working with Tell MAMA -- a group tracking anti-Muslim hate crime in the U.K. -- to identify where extra policing and protection for Muslims are needed.

"We must all do what we can to encourage victims of hate crime … to report it," Atkins added.

Shortly after initial reports of the hate letter, Tell MAMA said it "has been sent several reports from Muslims in London, the Midlands, and Yorkshire who have sent the 'Punish a Muslim Day' letter."

"This has caused quite a lot of fear within the community," said Iman Atta, director of Tell MAMA.

"They are asking if they are safe, if their children are safe to play outdoors. We have told them to keep calm, and to phone the police if they receive one of these letters."

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