Yesterday the Metropolitan Police released CCTV footage of an attack on American student Francesco Hounye, which took place last June on Commercial Road in London’s East End. In addition to being kicked and punched, Mr Hounye was hit in the face with a bottle, resulting in permanent scarring.
It was a horrible assault, and hopefully the perpetrators will be identified and charged. However, the cause of the dispute that led to the violence is unclear. The Met can only suggest that Mr Hounye may have been picked on because he was “obviously not local” and had answered back when he was accosted by his attackers.
That hasn’t prevented the Times from publishing a report (see below) implying that the attack was linked to the earlier “Muslim patrol” incidents in the same area, which resulted in three men appearing in court last week. (The headline has since been changed to “US student attacked by Asian gang in London”.)
The assault on Mr Hounye, and the Met’s appeal for assistance in identifying his assailants, was reported by a number of news outlets, including the BBC, the Independent, the Mirror, the Evening Standard and the Metro. But not one of them, not even the Mail, suggested that there was any connection between this attack and the so-called “Muslim patrol” – for the simple reason that evidence of such a connection is completely non-existent.
The next thing you know, Maajid Nawaz will be contributing a follow-up article to the Times blaming the attack on “battle-hardened jihadis” returning from Syria.
US student attacked in ‘Muslim patrol’ area of London
An American student drinking a bottle of beer was viciously beaten by a gang of five Asian youths in an area of London which has seen attacks on people accused of un-Islamic activities.
Scotland Yard released security camera footage of Francesco Hounye, 22, being surrounded by the youths.
The gang smashed a bottle into his face and then repeatedly kicked and punched him as he tried to escape.
Mr Hounye, from Florida, had only been in London for three days and had been considering continuing his studies in Britain.
Scotland Yard said the attack was not classed as a hate crime as they believed Mr Hounye was targeted simply because he was “obviously not local”.
Mr Hounye, who was originally from Italy, had been out for the night in Brick Lane area of Whitechapel, East London, with a friend he was staying with when he was attacked just after midnight on June 17.
The area has seen attacks by self-appointed members of “Muslim Patrols” who have targeted people who have been drinking, they believe are gay, or women they consider to be dressed inappropriately.
CCTV footage shows Mr Hounye and his friend being followed by a number of Asian men as they walked back to the friend’s home.
It is not clear what was said but the exchange became heated and the suspects threatening and aggressive.
One of the suspects grabbed a bottle the Mr Hounye was drinking from and smashed it against his face.
Mr Hounye was taken to the Royal London Hospital with deep slash wounds to his head and around his right ear. He needed 23 stitches to his face and more stitches internally. He has suffered permanent scarring and a chipped tooth.
Mr Hounye said in a statement to police: “As a result of this incident I am now scared to go out on my own in London. I am a visitor to the UK and was considering continuing my studies here but this incident has made me think twice.
“I feel very emotional about the whole situation. I also now face the rest of my life with the permanent scarring that will be left on my face as a result of this attack.
“Every time I look in the mirror from now on I will be reminded of this incident.”
Police said the suspects are Asian and aged in their late teens to early 20s. They are possibly Bengali.
The man who used the bottle was wearing a red and white striped short-sleeved top with black trousers, white trainers and a large watch.
Detectives investigating a self-styled Muslim Patrol gang arrested five people in January following a string of incidents in east London where members of the public were harassed.
A video posted online show men from the gang in Whitechapel telling one man “no drink in this area, it’s a Muslim area” before ordering him to pour away his alcohol.
Majid Nawaz, the chairman of the Quilliam Foundation, an anti-extremism organisation, wrote in The Times that Muslim Patrols “could become a lot more dangerous”.
Detective Constable Ben Mott, who is leading the hunt for the gang that attacked Mr Hounye said: “We believe the suspects picked a fight with the victim as he was obviously not from the local area and they took exception to the fact that he was a bit different.
“The victim has an Italian accent, his own style of dress and mannerisms and, when challenged by the Asian males, answered them back. They retaliated by grabbing the bottle and launching a vicious attack that has left him scarred for life.
“He had come to the UK to enhance his studies and has been left so shocked and horrified by what happened that he feels unsafe and is unsure if he wants to stay here.
“The CCTV footage is exceptionally clear and I believe the suspects to be local. I would ask people to please look closely at the faces of the attackers and help us identify them.
“I am positive someone would know who they are from looking at the footage.”
Tower Hamlets CID can be contacted on 020 7275 4546 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.