Legend has it that the practice of hurling rotten fruit began at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in 17th century London, with a bombardment of spoiled tomatoes serving as the ultimate manifestation of contempt and disdain. In more recent years, the slinging of food has often been used as a form of protest, as well as a tool of racism and oppression.
Now, in the wake of the Syrian refugee crisis, as instances of Islamophobia have been rising across the U.S. and Europe, a man has been accused of using food in a hate crime against a North London mosque. The unknown assailant attacked Finsbury Park Mosque by tossing a bag of rotten pork over the gate early one morning in May, according to the Independent.
Unfortunately, police have had difficulty identifying the suspect, instead releasing surveillance footage of the attack over the weekend in the hopes that someone might come forward with new information.
In the 47-second video clip captured on CCTV, a bearded man approached the mosque’s gate wearing a knit cap pulled low over his eyebrows. He looked around to see if anyone was coming, before tossing the bag of meat over the gate and walking away into the night.
London police say the man is wanted for a “religiously aggravated hate crime.” Though halal outlines a number of foods and beverages that are permissible and forbidden for devout Muslims to consume under Islamic law, pork is considered one of the most common non-halal foods. As Munchies points out, anti-Muslim Germans began participating in the #HalalChallenge this year, placing pork in the halal section of supermarkets.
"We take hate crime extremely seriously as we know how destructive these offenses can be, both to individuals and to communities," Ralph Coates, a detective inspector with the Islington Community Safety Unit, said in a statement. “I would urge anyone who recognizes this man or has any information that will help the investigation to contact police.”
The act also follows Brexit, Britain's controversial vote to leave the European Union, which some critics have called a xenophobic reaction to the country's growing Muslim population. Anti-Muslim sentiments are indeed growing in Europe, and, according to a recent a study from the Washington, D.C.-based think tank Freedom House, areas where Islamophobia is on the rise, democracy tends to be on the decline.
"Claiming that Europe faces a Muslim invasion has become standard fare for a range of politicians and political parties in Europe,” Nate Schenkkan, project director of the organization Nations in Transit, said in a statement to the Washington Post in April. "This kind of speech undermines democracy by rejecting one of its fundamental principles—equality before the law. There is a danger that this kind of hateful, paranoid speech will lead to violence against minorities and refugees."