Mohammed Saleem’s family mark sixth anniversary of his brutal murder by neo-Nazi
Today marks the sixth anniversary of one of the worst terror incidents in the recent history of Birmingham.
On April 29, 2013, Ukrainian white supremacist terrorist Pavlo Lapshyn stabbed and murdered Birmingham pensioner Mohammed Saleem outside a mosque in Small Heath, in the hope of starting a race war.
The terror attack was the climax to a planned operation during which Lapshyn had planted bombs in three different mosques across the West Midlands, within five days of arriving in the country.
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 25-year-old 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.
Who was Mohammed Saleem?
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.
VIDEO: Community leaders gather for a vigil following the murder of Mohammed Saleem:
Six years on, his family continue to grieve the loss of a figure and a popular Samaritan in the city.
Each year, Brummies have gathered around the anniversary to discuss the events surrounding the terrorist incident and its aftermath, touching on Islamophobia and racism and the rise of the far-right in the UK and Europe. They repeatedly draw parallels with the murders of Lee Rigby and Jo Cox.
According to official figures from monitoring groups Hope Not Hate and Tell MAMA, Islamophobia in Britain has increased year on year since Mohammed Saleem was murdered.
Even following the recent New Zealand Christchurch attacks, which targeted Muslims worshipping in mosques, anti-Muslim hate crimes reported across Britain increased by 593% in the week after.
VIDEO: How far-right terrorist Pavlo Lapshyn was caught by police:
Maz Saleem, daughter of the late Mohammed Saleem, is an anti-racism campaigner. She has vocally campaigned against racism, Islamophobia, xenophobia and the far-right since 2013. In an interview with I Am Birmingham in 2014, she said:
“It just seems like yesterday, I mean everything comes back. We relive it most days because we live on the street where it happened, we walk past the scene everyday, so it is very raw.
“We always feel like we wish we were there, we wish we could’ve stopped it. It was literally a stone’s throw away from our house, you don’t expect this to happen, here in the UK on our streets.
“Lee Rigby was murdered three weeks after my father’s brutal terrorist murder, and Theresa May [the Home Secretary] went out with a Cobra meeting, Muslims were condemning the attack, there were meetings across the country, the media went crazy… we has Muslims had to apologise for this.
“But when my father’s terrorist murder [happened] in a similar attack on our streets in the UK – and also, Pavlo [Lapshyn] went on a bombing campaign… he put nail bombs outside three mosques – and yet, we didn’t get the same publicity, it was very quiet on the media front; and we need to challenge the media because this constant Islamophobic rhetoric that they keep putting out is not on.
“When Muslims are being murdered on our streets, when mosques are being bombed and graffitied, these are not being reported, so we really need to challenge the media and our politicians.
This year, Maz has been marking the anniversary of her father’s brutal murder by visiting Bosniak Muslims in Srebrenica, where 8,000 Muslim men and boys were massacred by members of the Bosnian Serb Army under the command of Ratko Mladić in 1995.