BuzzFeed News reports on a Facebook post describing an alleged incident of racial abuse suffered by a group of young British Muslim women which has gone viral.
Yusra Ahmed, a student at the University of Leeds, described how she and a group of friends were left “humiliated and victimised”‘ after a National Express coach driver allegedly subjected them to racial abuse as they tried to board a coach from Manchester to Leeds at 10.30pm on 14 June.
Ahmed argues the group of visibly Muslim women “received hostility” from the National Express driver, who allegedly singled out the women from other passengers when inspecting their tickets, something Ahmed claimed “she didn’t do to any of the other passengers.”
The driver then grossly offended the women by accusing them of trying to bring “smelly curry food” on to the bus.
The University of Leeds student explained to the driver that they had given their cold food to homeless people nearby to avoid bringing it on to the bus, but the driver allegedly insisted on searching their bags, arguing the women were “suspicious.”
Ahmed, aged 20, accused the driver of being racist: “I told her to stop with her charade of racist and presumptuous stereotypes about us at which point she flipped out,” she wrote on her Facebook page.
The driver denied she was being racist, claiming she was “sick and tired of people accusing me of racism”, Ahmed said. She then refused the group entry on the bus though they had purchased tickets for travel in advance and drove away.
A security guard on the bus allegedly supported the driver when she banned the Muslim women from boarding and even threatened to report the students for “refusing to apologise to the driver”, despite other passengers being visibly shocked by the incident, Ahmed claimed.
Ahmed told BuzzFeed News: “My friends and I were made to feel very humiliated and victimised.” “She belittled us to the point that one of my friends was almost in tears.”
Ahmed added that the group of young women felt “targeted and publicly humiliated” by the incident.
The students had to board the next coach, delaying their journey by four hours, according to Ahmed.
National Express, which initially offered an unsatisfactory response to Ahmed’s direct complaint has now released a statement saying: “This matter is being investigated as a priority by our Customer Service Team”. The change of heart comes after Ahmed’s Facebook post received much attention.
The group claim that when they initially contacted National Express to voice a complaint, the company were “very unhelpful” and only offered to pay for a taxi from Leeds coach station to their accommodation, which did not even arrive on time.
A spokesperson from National Express only contacted Ahmed when the incident began to be discussed on Facebook and Twitter. The company claim to be piecing together CCTV evidence and “acknowledged there were grave concerns regarding the driver,” according to Ahmed.
A National Express spokesperson told BuzzFeed News: “We take reports of unacceptable behaviour very seriously are investigating the issues raised by this serious complaint as a matter of priority.”
Ahmed concluded her detailed description of the ordeal on Facebook with: “This wasn’t about our food this was about the principle and her racist and Islamophobic agenda. I’ve heard quite a few stories about National Express and their poor treatment of minorities and women, something needs to change.”
The number of people experiencing racial or religiously aggravated hate crimes on public transport has increased in recent years. The British Transport Police revealed earlier this year that there were four suspected hate crimes a day on public transport in 2014. According to data requested by the Press Association, the BTP recorded 1,468 hate crimes in 2014, up from 1,364 in 2013 and 1,351 in 2012.
Leicester University’s Hate Crime Project also reported a high incidence of hate crime on public transport suggesting that transport companies do more to tackle the problem.