A village hairdresser whose salon is called ISIS has been forced to change its name after receiving a threatening email claiming to be from the Islamic terrorist group.
Married mum-of-three Karen Lawrence, 54, named her salon ISIS after the Egyptian goddess of the sun and moon 16 years ago when she first set it up.
But she has now had to changed the name to Studio No. 5 after taking advice from police over the hate email which demanded she drop the ISIS title.
Karen said she received the email earlier this year from someone purporting to be the head of the death cult currently spreading terror across Syria and Iraq.
She said: “The police officer I spoke to advised us not to try and battle it out, he said there are a lot of strange people out there and changing the name would help avoid a lot of the hassle we have had.
“When I had chosen the name all those years ago I thought Isis, pretty goddess, short and sweet and never thought it would come to this.”
Since the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, known as ISIS, rose to power it has caused considerable confusion and upset for the salon based in Writtle, Essex.
“It’s been an absolute nightmare,” said Karen.
“We’ve had a lot of phone calls and comments, but I had to change the name when I got a particularly threatening email in the summer.
“It was from someone claiming to be the head of ISIS, threatening us and claiming we were taking their name in vain.
“I called the police straight away, and they took it very seriously and basically told me to change the as soon as possible or it would continue. I had to take the sign down that day.
“And it’s not just from ISIS supporters. We’ve had plenty from people who seem to think we’re in league with them.
“On the day Donald Trump was elected we had a particularly threatening phone call, even though we’d already changed our name.
“You’d think common sense would prevail but apparently not.”
Professor Anthony Glees from the University of Buckingham, a specialist concern with Security and Intelligence issues, said: “This is completely unacceptable the chances are that this these threats are a hoax, very bad taste, however the threats could be real.
“If they are the police are paid to go after them and not to give in to them.”
Karen said the abuse was also felt by staff who had comments made to them, with even more people on Facebook and other social media channels claiming a link between the salon and the terrorist organisation.
She added: “Some of the girls have had calls and it’s really frightened them. They’re only young and often have to walk home alone late at night.
“A few times I’ve had to call my brother-in-law to come and walk me home too.
“You wouldn’t believe the amount of stuff we’ve had on Facebook over the last couple of years as well, with people commenting ‘why would you go here,’ and putting little emojis of bombs.
“It got to the point that when I went to book our Christmas party last year and told the girl our name on the phone she gasped, and I had to explain it to her – imagine that.
“At the start I was quite bloody-minded about it. I thought ‘We were here first, why should we have to change?”‘ But in the end I decided to change the name for the sake of our safety.
“I’ve got a family, and I don’t know what someone might do. I don’t know if I’m being watched or what.
“It’s cost an absolute fortune, though. We’ve had to change everything, from the website right down to the stationery.
“A lot of loyal customers have had to get used to the name change, but overall I think it’s made a positive difference. And we’re so grateful for all our customers who have supported us through the whole thing.
“The police are now dealing with the threatening email we received and are tracking that, and we’re just hoping it all dies down now.
“It’s been frightening, though. Obviously most people thought it was rather silly, but all it takes is someone with a loose wire who thinks we’re in league with ISIS.
“What worried me most was that there were flats above the salon, and if someone had decided to do something really stupid they would have been in danger.
“It’s hard enough trying to run a business at the best of times, let alone with all this. We’ve always been a lovely community hairdressers, and we don’t deserve what we’ve had to put up with.”
In Oxford the River Thames is called Isis when its within the city limits.
A number of businesses and organisations have adopted the name but opted to change it when the terror group emerged in 2014.
Isis Education, an Oxford-based chain of language schools, was rebranded in 2015 as the Oxford International Education Group.
A school called the Isis Academy in Oxford changed to the “Iffley Academy” to protect its “reputation, integrity and image”.