A mother in Antrim, Nothern Ireland, reportedly warned her child that looking at a woman in a burqa would "give you nightmares". Referring to the burqa-wearing woman as "mental", the mother allegedly told the child not to look at her.
The woman wearing the burqa was Angela Rainey, a journalist for the Belfast Telegraph, who was conducting a social experiment to understand people's reactions to Muslim women. Rainey noted that Muslims in Northern Ireland have been the target of a number of hate crimes and she wanted to find out for herself just how bad the situation is.
"Clearly, a woman in a burqa is not an everyday sight in Northern Ireland and horrified looks and gasps were the order of the day from most passers-by," Rainey wrote in the Belfast Telegraph. "Although to be fair, most people then moved on with their business, ignoring me. Some, though, couldn't resist mouthing off."
Rainey describes a number of incidents where she was called a "terrorist" and told she was "not in [her] own country now". She also wrote about how security guards and policemen lingered their gaze on her suspiciously, while others accused her of trying to break into cars and told her to take her veil off.
Rainey described an incident in Antrim with a young mother and her child: "One teenage mother commented: 'Don't look at her, she's mental... would give you nightmares, that.'" On Bangor's High Street, a woman told her son to "get away from her" and "don't stand near her."
Rainey said: "As I walked through a shopping centre, a twenty-something woman laughed in my face, while beady-eyed security guards followed my every move. As I waited by the back of a shopping centre, a security man kept a close eye on me while ignoring catty giggling teenagers who attempted to photograph me in his presence before shouting: 'She's trying to break into cars.' As I turned towards them they retreated into a shop."
Last month a Muslim family's home in Antrim was attacked by petrol bombers in the middle of the night. The incident occurred in the aftermath of the Paris terrorist attacks and Margaret Ibhrahim said that she believes her home was targeted because her husband is a Muslim. Police in Northern Ireland increased security after the Paris attacks to protect Muslims in the area.
PSNI Superintendent Bobby Singleton told Belfast Live: "Police have made contact with members of the Islamic community and have advised them that they will be seeking to increase patrols in key locations for the purposes of reassurance."