Islamophobia in a village

Two Derby families say day trip to the picturesque Derbyshire village of Belpar was ruined by an Islamophobic attack.

Mohammed Khalifa, 37, and Nathalie Faustilio, 24, said the trip with their friends on May 18 went horribly wrong when Khalifa and his friend Hassan Sami, 21, left their wives and two young children alone in the River Garden in North Mill Bridgefoot to withdraw money. Faustilio, an Italian Muslim convert, and English convert, Soria Hawata, 21, were subjected to an unprovoked and sustained Islamophobic attack which left Khalifa with broken ribs and both women in constant fear.

Speaking to The Muslim News Faustilio said trouble began when she and her friend were left alone by their husbands in the park. “When they went to get money from the ATM machines a man started screaming really foul things at us.” Faustilio insists the nasty verbal abuse was so motiveless she initially thought he was aiming the expletives at his dog, “He was swearing and saying really bad things. At first I thought he was aiming his abuse at the dog then I found out he was aiming it at me.”

The hijab wearing ladies said they were told to remove their “Pakistani clothes”. “He told me and Soria to get out of the country, his exact words were ‘get the F@#ck out my country go back to Pakistan’. I told him I’m Italian and my friend was English and even if we weren’t it was none of his business.” The man continued to hurl verbal abuse at the two and even spat at Nathalie who said she had “never been subjected to Islamophobia at this level”.

Faustilio said she was left in tears when she noticed no one in the park came to their assistance. Instead, she said, a small crowd had gathered to watch. “A couple of people thought it was amusing and were smiling but they didn’t help us.”

“Only a lady working in the parks café called the police when Nathalie asked her to,” said Hawata.

Khalifa said he returned to see his wife being sworn and spat at, “I shoved him out of the way he pushed me. I pushed him back and we fought.” The police arrived as the fighting ensued. Faustilio said her husband, who had broken his rib and his friend were arrested, whilst the assailant was taken to hospital for his broken nose.

The women asked to go in the police car for protection but were told to walk. “Before my husband came the man called his mobile and said he was calling his mates to come over. The police said we had to walk to the police station in a village we didn’t know with two small children for 15 minutes. We got lost and were worried the man’s mates would come.”

However, later, Faustilio’s husband and his friend were released without charge.

Hawata also criticised Derbyshire police for not keeping them informed on the fate of their harasser, “They haven’t informed either me or Nathalie of what happened to the man. We know he was arrested at the time but we don’t know what else happened.”

“He lives in Derby near us and whenever I take public transport I worry that I might bump into him,” said Hawata.

A spokesperson for Derbshire police told The Muslim News, “A 39 year old man from Derby was taken to hospital where he had surgery on his nose. Once he was released from hospital he was arrested and questioned. He was released on bail and his case has been forwarded to the CPS for review.”

Muslim News, 27 June 2008