He punched a Bangladeshi man and got arrested – would Pakistan have done the same for its minorties?

Published: October 26, 2016

Whether you are a football fan particularly following West Ham United or prefer Asian shopping or dining at Green Street, then you are expected to have travelled to and from Upton Park Underground Station. Upton Park being, a district in the London borough of Newham, is an area that you would normally attribute to a large non-White population with welcoming environs for its migrant population. The borough, amongst other ethnic inhabitants, hosts a vast number of Muslim diaspora; in fact making it the second largest for the population of Muslims in the United Kingdom.

Last week, in the heart of this borough at Upton Park station, as a train pulled to a halt, an allegedly racist attacker swung a powerful punch at an Asian man’s face, hurting his left jaw. The victim’s head thumped vociferously against the window as a result of this viciously potent blow. This attack would surprise some and not others.

By and large, Britain is a tolerant society; I dare say that it is a much more forbearing society for Muslims than even most Islamic countries are for their “own”. Public transport carrying several millions of all colours and creeds every day in the West, without major incidents is one of the countless testimonies to its superior practices when it comes to equality. This one blow on a Bangladeshi immigrant’s cheek was reported with vigour even by otherwise right-wing tabloids such as The SunThe story was also picked by the press far afield in countries such as Pakistan and was condemned on social media with disgust that it thoroughly deserved.

Such acts of violence do cause hurt and more so to those who are in minority in whatever shape or form. Some would condemn the brutal force by which the assailant threw the punch, some would comment on the fact that a native heartlessly attacked a poor migrant, whereas some would hail the bravery and spontaneity of the victim’s wife who chased the attacker whilst alerting the beholders of the culprit’s callous act. Similarly some would appreciate the outcome of the incident that the police has identified and thankfully arrested the thug.

The story of one punch from a racist’s fist has rightly reached all and sundry; I am however left thinking what if the punching hand was that of a ‘Muslim’ in Lahore, Multan or another city and the receiving jaw was that of a ‘lesser’ Muslim or a non-Muslim, how far the news would then have travelled? Countless punches of hate are blown daily in Pakistan as most of such blows have been legitimised by the law itself. Blasphemy laws and some groups/sects specific laws in Pakistan are protecting the hand of the oppressor as opposed to shielding the face of the oppressed.

It is inconceivable that in the 21st century there exist discriminatory laws such as the Second Amendment to the Constitution enacted by the Parliament in 1974, or Ordinance XX promulgated by General Ziaul Haq in 1984. Such laws which are still cherished do not jolt just one random passenger in a train but bruise the entire face of the society and scar it for generations. Such potent blows have stalled the train of progress and harmony if not totally halted it.

These “legal” punches have knocked out the very core of justice and equity; the most important pillars of any prosperous society. This one incident at Upton Park Station must be a stark reminder for us all to look in the mirror and reflect on whether we stand by the puncher or the thumped? Next time when I hear the announcements on the London underground platforms and trains bearing the renowned alerts of “Mind the gap” my mind may just turn towards the gap between the oppressed and the oppressor; with a wish and a prayer that may the widening gap between the two be abridged through justice and equity, in every society of the world.

Farooq Mahmood

Farooq Mahmood

The author is a Senior University Lecturer in London, a Chartered Management Accountant and a Chartered Global Management Accountant.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.