UK: Muslim women led rally for Sabina Nessa
By Elham Asaad Buaras
London, (The Muslim News): Muslim women led a community rally in East London Friday demanding justice for murdered primary school teacher Sabina Nessa.
28-year-old Nessa, who taught year-one children at Rushey Green Primary School in Lewisham, was taking a five-minute walk to meet a friend at The Depot bar in Pegler Square near her home in Kidbrooke, south-east London, on September 17 at around 8.30 pm when she was attacked.
A member of the public found her body close to the OneSpace Community Centre in Cator Park the following day at around 5.30 pm.
Speakers at the event held at the Maryam Centre in East London Mosque, included women leaders from the Muslim community and guest speakers from women’s and community organisations.
Her sister said the family was “shocked” by Nessa’s brutal murder, saying there were “no words” to describe their feelings.
In a statement released ahead of the community rally organised by the East London Mosque, The Muslim Women’s Collective, Women 100 and The East London Citizens Organisation, Jebina Yasmin Islam, said: “We as a family are shocked by the murder of our sister, daughter and aunty to my girls.
“There are no words to describe how we are feeling as a family at the moment. We did not expect that something like this would ever happen to us.
“I urge everyone to walk on busy streets when walking home from work, school or friends’ homes. Please keep safe. I ask you to pray for our sister and make dua [supplication] for her. May Allah grant her paradise.”
Rushanara Ali, Labour MP for Bethnal Green and Bow, said, “My thoughts are with Sabina Nessa’s family and friends at this terrible time. Sabina’s horrific murder highlights once again the continued threat of violence faced by women in our communities. The Government must do much more to tackle violence against women and girls and ensure that everyone feels safe and protected on our streets.”
Sufia Alam, Head of Programmes at the Maryam Centre, said, “This brutal murder of one of our shining stars is genuinely saddening and deeply shocking. I have three daughters, and I can’t even begin to express what I am feeling right now. Sarah Everard was one of our daughters, and so was Sabina Nessa – their lives were tragically cut short – at the hands of violence and brutality.”
Alam said violence by men against women is “out of control – hundreds of women die every year at the hands of men. We have much work to do against the violence faced by women in our society. We will not stop campaigning until our mothers, sisters and daughters are safe anywhere and everywhere.”
She also advocated reorienting the national conversation from women’s vulnerabilities to male education on human rights.
“This isn’t about women and girls being vulnerable – this is about men and boys – and educating them early on about respecting and honouring women and girls, and treating them with the dignity they deserve.”
She also addressed the importance of understanding intersectionality, which explains how aspects of a person’s identities can combine to create multiple modes of discrimination
“There is also an added caveat here, when a Muslim woman is murdered, and we need to acknowledge the intersectionality she carries as part of her identity. When a Muslim woman is murdered, this dampens the aspirations of other Muslim women and girls in education and employment. And this will be particularly hard for us to deal with and manage,” said Alam.
Afsana Salik, Community Organiser, Citizens UK, which has been campaigning for eight years to make misogyny a hate crime, said, “The day Sabina was murdered, the Government released its strategy on tackling violence against women and girls. However, this strategy is just full of recommendations which haven’t been put into action.”
“We need legislation now and without delay. The need is dire right now as women face countless threats going about in their daily lives.”
Tower Hamlets Councillor, Rabina Khan told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, she was attending the vigil at Pegler Square, where Nessa’s body was found, and hoped high profile people would also attend.
“I too, just like my daughters, I have a 25-year-old, I have a 21-year-old, we spoke up for Sarah Everard,” she said.
“When we saw high profile people who attended (Ms Everard’s vigil), I was really pleased and proud that the Duchess of Cambridge attended the vigil of Sarah Everard and I hope, tonight, we see many profiled people attending Sabina Nessa’s vigil.”
Actress and TV presenter Jameela Jamil, like Nessa, is of Bangladeshi heritage, and she was among the many to point out the discrepancy in the coverage between Everard and Nessa’s murder. Posting a photograph of Nessa on Twitter, Jameela wrote: “I am going to need to see the same energy and level of outrage and horror that we saw with Sarah Everard’s murder. Just because this woman may not look like you, it doesn’t mean her life/death isn’t important.”
A man is being questioned on suspicion of her murder. Officers have released an image of another man they wish to speak to. He is shown on CCTV walking through Pegler Square.
An “extensive trawl” of CCTV in the area is ongoing as information on the man’s identity and whereabouts could be “vital” to the investigation, police said.
Assistant Commissioner, Louisa Rolfe, said the Metropolitan Police was not asking women to change their behaviour when going out at night.
The statement comes after information sheets advising women on how to stay safe at night were handed out by a community group.
“It’s really important to us that we don’t ask women to change their behaviour” she said.
“Violence against women and girls is a priority for police across the UK but we’re really conscious that women should be free to go about their lives without fear of abuse.”
She added violence against women had the “hallmarks of an epidemic”.