Muslim women in Milton Keynes are living in fear every time they step out of their homes following a nauseating racially aggravated assault in which a pregnant woman was kicked in the stomach and lost her unborn baby.

Thames Valley Police have arrested a 37-year-old man in connection with the incident in which the 34-year-old woman endured the horrific ordeal in the car park of the Co-op supermarket on the evening of 6 August, resulting in her falling to the ground and losing her baby.

While the ethnicity of the woman has not been disclosed by police, she is believed to be a Somalian Muslim. Speaking after a prayer ceremony at the Hazrath Shahjalal Jamie Masjid mosque, located a stone's throw away from where the attack took place, several members of the local Muslim community have said they believed the pregnant woman was set upon solely because she had been wearing a hijab.

Rofiql Islam, 40, said many Muslims in the area now experience "odd people saying something on the street". He thinks it is the women in the area who suffer the most abuse because they are easier to identify.

He and fellow mosque attendee Shah Rahman, 50, were able to give two separate recent examples where women in the local area have had men approach them on the street, subjected them to racist abuse or even attempted to forcibly remove their hijabs.

Islam told IBTimes UK: "Overall we men feel quite safe, but our women are not safe. I was talking to my wife and she said 'we need to think about how to be safe' when they leave the house. Every woman is scared."

The shocking attack comes amid fears that there has been a rise in hate crimes across the UK in the wake of the EU Referendum vote, with the number of reported incidents soaring by 400% in the week following 23 June.

Rahman believes that after Brexit, it is now more likely to be an increase in hate crimes. He said: "It's not just Europeans, there's been racist attacks for all ethnic minority communities [in UK]."

Islam added: "Coming out of the Euro started the main issues, something to pick up from. Now our ladies are getting more abused than us. It is a shame. The police should be doing more to protect our women. They're not harming anyone; they're just wearing a hijab."

Bletchley
The Co-Op in Bletchley where the attack occured IBTimes UK/Ewan Palmer

Studies have raised the issues of "visible" Muslims being more likely to be the targets of attacks in the UK. A Comres poll released in February 2015 revealed nearly one-in-five Muslim women said they do not feel safe living in Britain.

According to a report by Islamophobia monitoring group, Tell Mama, Muslim women are more likely to be attacked by white men when they are using public transport, walking on the street or while out shopping.

milton keyes
CCTV image of the man police want to speak to in connection with a racially aggravated assault in Milton Keynes Thames Valley Police

In their report, The Geography of anti-Muslim Hatred, the group found from a sample of 468 attacks against Muslims in the UK, 215 (46%) were against women who were visibly Muslim, compared to 39 males who were identifiable as Muslims.

The report states: "The fact that 46% of all victims are visibly Muslim women makes clear both the gendered aspects of anti-Muslim incidents presents an equal challenge to the mobility of Muslim women in Britain. First, misinformed narratives about the 'oppression' of veiled Muslim women are repeated in attacks on visibly Muslim women.

"Second, a visibly Muslim woman becomes an easier target for a perpetrator because her Muslim identity is more pronounced. This renders the victim into a universal signifier of 'Muslimness' (the victim is seen nothing other than a Muslim woman rather than a mother, a doctor, a farmer, entrepreneur, or student)."

As well as being targeted on the streets, a study by Birmingham City University found that far-right groups such as the BNP and the English Defence League single out women in their online campaigns against Islam.

According to a study of hundreds of social media posts, around 80% abuse was carried out by men, who singled out Muslim women for attacks, including 76 posts portraying women wearing the niqab or hijab as a "security threat".

Hijab
The Hijab covers the head and neck and is worn by most Muslim women Reuters

Bletchley mosque attacks

The Muslim community in Bletchley were also critical of police for waiting for a month to release CCTV footage of the male suspect involved in the attack on the pregnant woman as the area had witnessed racial aggravated attacks before.

The attack outside the Co-Op occurred close to the The Hazrath Shahjalal Jamie Masjid mosque, which has been the target of several hate crime incidents since it was converted from a pub in 2011.

The BNP staged demonstrations outside the building believing the mosque was proof of the "creeping Islamification" of the UK. A pig's head was also thrown on the site before the building was converted into a mosque.

The mosque was also the target of an arson attack in which Richard Bevington was jailed for four years for in 2014.

Bletchley mosque
The Hazrath Shahjalal Jamie Masjid mosque was converted from a pub in 2011 IBTimes UK/Ewan Palmer

Rahman recalled seeing police outside the Co-Op in August and dismissing it as "shoplifting or something", but then discovered weeks later how serious the incident had been.

"For over a month we didn't hear anything, it was a big incident and we didn't hear anything."

Islam added: "There's a mosque here and a mosque in Duncombe Street [less than a mile away] why did police wait that long?

A third man, Muhammed Azaz, 45, was also critical of police response to the incident as he described such incidents of hate crime as like "a disease".

"If you don't catch it, it will spread," he warns.

Following the arrest of the suspect in connection with the attack on the pregnant woman, Thames Valley Police PC Richard Armitage said: "This racially aggravated assault had absolutely devastating consequences for the victim, who lost her baby as a result of the attack. Our thoughts are with her and her family at this incredibly difficult and sad time."

Recorded hate crimes by police