A British man who tweeted about confronting a Muslim woman about the Brussels attacks — and was then roundly mocked by Twitter users — was arrested on suspicion of inciting racial hatred on Wednesday night.
Matthew Doyle, reportedly a partner in a London-based talent and PR agency, posted a tweet on Wednesday morning saying: "I confronted a Muslim woman yesterday in Croydon. I asked her to explain Brussels. She said 'nothing to do with me.' A mealy mouthed reply."
Referring to the triple bombings at Brussels airport and a metro station on Tuesday that killed at least 31 people, perhaps Doyle expected his comments would be welcomed.
They weren't. Various tweets criticized Doyle for ignorance and bigotry, then the classic British backlash began — a mass piss-take.
I confronted a ferret and asked him to explain Donald Trump's hair. He said 'nothing to do with me'. A mealy mouthed response.
— Enam Haque (@EnamHaque3)March 23, 2016
I confronted a kid at McDonalds yesterday and asked him about mortgages. He replied 'I like chicken nuggets'. A happy-mealy mouthed reply.
— Ruhi (@r_uhi)March 23, 2016
I confronted an English man about the colonisation of Nigeria and the post-colonial unrest. He said 'dunno mate.' A mealy mouthed reply.
— kelz (@kelechnekoff)March 23, 2016
I confronted a woman eating breakfast yesterday in Croydon. I asked her to explain porridge. She said 'mlumabmnhnmm'. A mealy mouthed reply.
— Beaubodor (@beaubodor)March 23, 2016
Doyle later claimed to the Daily Telegraph newspaper that the encounter with the woman — who was "white, British, and wearing a hijab" — had been perfectly amicable, and the 140-character limit on Twitter had made it sound worse than it was.
"I just said: 'Excuse me, can I ask what you thought about the incident in Brussels?'" he said. "She told me it was nothing to do with her. I said 'thank you for explaining that' — and her little boy said goodbye to me as we went out separate ways."
He was not a "far right merchant," he claimed, and if he was xenophobic he "wouldn't live in London." But subsequent tweets incorporating offensive, racist, language and warning about the "horror of Islam" suggested otherwise.
A Metropolitan Police spokesperson said: "A 46-year-old man was this evening arrested at his home in Croydon on suspicion of inciting racial hatred on social media. He has been taken to a south London police station and enquiries continue."
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