In the media
Police investigate 'backlash' attacks
By Robert Verkaik, Legal Affairs Correspondent
09 July 2005
Police are investigating a number of assaults on Muslims and an
arson attack on a Sikh temple which are believed to have been triggered
by Thursday's terrorist bombings in London.
Muslim leaders, fearing these incidents are part of a "racist
backlash", met last night to discuss how best to reassure Islamic
communities and deal with any further cases of Islamaphobia.
Racist material contained in e-mails sent to the Muslim Council
of Great Britain (MCGB) crashed its computer system while racist
propaganda has been prominently posted on a number of internet websites.
A West Yorkshire police spokeswoman confirmed they were treating
as "suspicious" a fire in Armley, Leeds, believed to be
at a Sikh temple. Kent Police are also investigating two assaults
on Muslim men in Dartford.
A spokesman for the MCGB said they were bracing themselves for
the worst and there was a real sense of "fear and apprehension"
in Muslim communities, particularly in London.
But Muslim leaders were heartened by the fact that they had not
witnessed the rash of racist abuse that had accompanied the September
11 attacks on America four years ago.
Dr Ghayasuddin Siddiqui, leader of the Muslim Parliament, praised
Londoners for facing this testing time with great courage. He said:
"Many Muslims are quite agitated by what might happen next
but we haven't seen the kind of things that happened post 9/11 when
people openly spat at Muslims on the streets and vandalised Mosques."
He said Muslim leaders had built bridges with other communities
so there was a sense that what had happened was an attack on everyone
who believes in a free democracy.
"I think some of these initiatives have paid dividends, and
[on Thursday] there were many Muslims who went to St Mary's Hospital
to volunteer to give blood. We are all part of the same country
and we feel the suffering."
Sir Iqbal Sacranie, Secretary-General of the MCGB said: "Our
faith of Islam calls upon us to be upholders of justice. The day
after London was bloodied by terrorists finds us determined to help
secure this justice for the innocent victims of Thursday's carnage.
The terrorists may have thought they could divide us and make us
panic. It is our hope that we will all prove them wrong."
But a statement posted on the British National Party's website
yesterday claimed: "Following the Islamic fundamentalist massacres
in London, two tendencies will rapidly become apparent: First the
pro-government media will swing into action, bringing out a steady
stream of injured ordinary Muslims and a flood of 'moderate' Muslim
spokesmen to condemn the extremists. Second, millions of ordinary
Brits just won't believe them, with severe extra strain on race
relations as a result."
One e-mail sent to the MCGB said: "I think that you have to
acknowledge the evil which lies at the heart of each and everyone
of you. The people you killed were my brothers. I am a black African.
I just came here to make a better life for myself. I cannot support
you. You are evil beings."
A spokesman for the MCGB said: "Senior figures around the
country are meeting to discuss a possible backlash. But it is important
that Muslims are not cowed by what has happened and ... go about
Members of Britain's Sikh communities also fear becoming targets
of racist attacks.
A spokesman for the Sikh Commission on Racism & Cohesion said:
"Following 9/11, visible communities like the Sikhs and Muslims
became immediate targets of public racism. Anyone that was considered
to be Muslim ... was targeted with vicious verbal racism, taunts
and also physical attacks"
The Commission for Racial Equality said it was monitoring "community
tensions that may arise as a result of the bombings".
Islamophobia on the increase
By Oliver Duff
* The UK's 1.6 million Muslims have suffered from increasing Islamophobia
since 11 September, figures show. The first big survey of anti-Muslim
discrimination in December revealed long-term prejudice had been
"perpetuated and normalised" since the 9/11 attacks. Almost
80 per cent of Muslims felt they had been discriminated against
because of their faith, a rise from 45 per cent in 2000.
* A study by York academics this year found 43 per cent of non-Muslims
admitted they have become noticeably more anti-Islamic since 2001.
There was a deepening of anti-Islamic sentiment after the invasion
of Iraq: a quarter of young people said they were more prejudiced
than before. Hatred of Muslims was particularly prevalent among
boys and young men.
* Islamic representatives believe police unfairly target their
community. Since 9/11, British anti-terrorist officers have arrested
more than 700 people, with more than two thirds thought to be Muslim.
But only one in six has been charged with terrorist offences.
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