A half-Jamaican man who was called a “Muslim c***” on public transport has spoken out about the abuse – and says racists have been encouraged by the current political environment.
Theatre director Matthew Xia, who is half Jamaican and half English, was abused on the tube after heading home from festive drinks.
A white man, who had been drinking, confronted Xia, who is not Muslim, harassing him until a fellow passenger intervened. The passenger who stepped in was then abused themselves.
Xia’s tweet thanking the stranger received more than 4,000 retweets and over 23,000 likes.
The incident happened on London’s Northern Line from London Bridge. Xia was sitting opposite a woman reading theatre scripts when a man holding a can of Kronenbourg accused him of looking at her – though Xia and the woman insisted he wasn’t.
Xia told Yahoo News UK: “He says ‘stop f***ing looking at her you f***ing Muslim c**t’.”
“He said, ‘You were looking at her, you were looking at me,’ and my first thing was [to say], ‘I’m not even a Muslim.’
“A bit of a s*** defence... but I guess I was trying to protect myself.
“His response was... ‘I don’t care what the f*** you are you, f***ing Muslim c**t.’”
An Irish passenger then ran down the carriage to get between Xia and the man and told the aggressor to leave him alone.
The aggressor called him a “f***ing IRA w****r”.
The Irish passenger – who Xia described as “my hero” – pushed the man back and he got off the train, still hurling abuse.
Asked why he had been targeted, Xia said: “I think what triggered it was my brown skin and my large brown beard, which for him was signifying some kind of enemy.”
The abuse has left Xia anxious about using public transport and he fears it is the latest attack in a growing trend of racially charged assaults.
He noted that after the day of the EU referendum in 2016, he was on a tram in Manchester when he another racist incident took place.
He said: “A bunch of three or four young white lads on the tram just pointed at anyone that they decided didn’t fit in and just said ‘you’re going home, you’re going home, you’re going home’”.
He worries that some voters believed leaving the EU would result in deportations of minorities.
And with the anti-semitism and islamophobia issues plaguing Labour and the Conservatives, he is concerned racists have been unduly boosted in the belief that the majority of the nation thinks like them.
“If you think that you are voting to get brown people out of the country and then the people you voted for get into power you feel absolutely validated in the choices you made... so people feel ultimately legitimised in their racist thoughts,” he said.
I'm also really sad that my first response to him as I took my headphones out to assess why he was standing over me and ranting was... "but I'm not even Muslim" because what the F*** does it even matter what I am, or what a Muslim is. I should have lied and said YES I AM SIT DOWN— Dr. Matthew Xia (@Excalibah) December 19, 2019
Xia thanked the Irish man, who intervened multiple times.
“I think I said to him a couple of times it’s really important people do that, that’s what’s going to stop the tipping point, that’s what’s going to stop things becoming violent, it’s all of us being vigilant and looking out for each other and standing up for each other when we see in this world an oppressive act or harassment.”
The fact that the man and the woman in the carriage stood up for him has heartened him.
“[I’m] incredibly grateful, massively shaken, I certainly got into the taxi after the train and just broke down and sobbed,” he said.
“I’m assessing every carriage, I’m looking through the windows before I get on to it.
“I guess I’m just trying to be hyper-vigilant.
“And I don’t feel like I can just sit there with my headphones on reading a script, I don’t feel like I can just live my life in the way I have lived my life up until two days ago, every time the doors open I want to check everyone’s getting on, what they’re doing, where they’re sitting.
“It’s not fun – I hope it will fade away.”
The British Transport Police is investigating but an arrest has not been made.
A spokeswoman said: “Officers received a report shortly after 1.30am, on 19 December, of a hate incident on board a northbound Northern Line Underground train.”
Xia was sceptical of how helpful the police could be, having never committed a crime but having been stopped by the police about 20 times.
“My life is like, on the one side I’ve got to walk through the streets looking out for racists who might attack me, on the other side I’ve got to look out for police who arrest me for no reason or racially profile me,” he said.
But the police officer he spoke to after the incident went “above and beyond”, he said.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the British Transport Police on 61016 and quote reference 40 of 19/12/19.