How a community came together following the Islamophobic murder of Mohammed Saleem
Only six years ago today, Ukrainian white supremacist terrorist Pavlo Lapshyn stabbed and murdered Birmingham pensioner Mohammed Saleem outside a mosque in Small Heath, within five days of arriving in the country.
The savagery and viciousness of the unprovoked and premeditated assault shocked the city, and left a community in mourning.
The attack was part of a carefully planned terrorist operation, during which Lapshyn had planted bombs in three different mosques across the West Midlands, in the hope of starting a race war.
Lapshyn was a PhD student from Dnipropetrovsk in Ukraine, in the UK on a work placement with software company Delcam, yet he concocted and executed a racist plot to target the Muslim community, which ultimately led to the brutal murder of Mohammed Saleem following prayers at Green Lane Mosque.
Saleem had been walking alone near his Small Heath home when he was spotted by Lapshyn, who was carrying a knife. Lapshyn later told detectives that he decided to kill Saleem because he “was a Muslim and there were no witnesses.” Lapshyn stabbed Saleem three times in the back.
The Ukrainian student has since been jailed for at least 40 years, after being caught and admitting murder as well as plotting to cause explosions near mosques in Walsall, Tipton and Wolverhampton in June and July 2013. At the Old Bailey, he was sentenced to be jailed for life.
How Birmingham came together…
82-year-old Saleem was a grandfather of 22 and a respected member of the community in Birmingham’s Small Heath area.
The callous slaughter of the pensioner left his loved ones devastated and, after a lengthy investigation, Lapshyn was caught, tried and imprisoned. However, the victims family were left without a husband, a father and a grandfather.
Following his murder, an initial police investigation was criticised by family members for failing to identify the attack as a hate crime. Community vigils in the city added pressure and eventually the attack was viewed from a racially and religiously motivated perspective. This led to the discovery of the failed mosque bomb attacks, which would have left hundred of casualties had they succeeded.
In the days following Mohammed Saleem’s death, the community came together to urge unity and resilience. Speakers at the event included community activisy Shabrez Ahmed, councillor Waseem Zaffar, interfaith worker Dr Andrew Smith, Bostan Ahmed from the Smethwick Youth Council, Superintendent Alex Murray of the West Midlands Police and Gerald Nembhard from West Midlands Faith Forum.