Lack of respect fuels fury on the streets of London

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The Independent Online
AZAD MIAH was having a cigarette and chatting to a friend one afternoon when a man approached. Thinking he wanted directions Mr Miah smiled and waited for him to come over.

Instead, they were asked for identification and the man said he was a plainclothes police officer. He insisted on searching both men. Despite their protestations he demanded that they turn out their pockets and said he had to search them "just in case".

"We let him search us but he didn't find anything - we didn't have anything. We weren't doing anything wrong but he was looking to see if we had any drugs," he said. Being stopped and searched for no apparent reason is a common occurrence for Mr Miah, 20, and he accepts it as a fact of life. "If they are polite we will co-operate but you never see them doing it to white people and if they are rude to us then we get angry," he said.

Last week Javed Mirza, 19, was pushed against a wall and searched when he reached into his breast pocket to pull out his diary. "I was coming out of the phone box and reached for my diary and a policeman came round the corner and saw me and started searching me. I wasn't doing anything wrong and he left without an apology. I am sure it was because I was wearing my shalwar kameez and he thought I was reaching for a knife."

Although many young Asians in London understand the police have a job to do, they resent that they seem to be stopped more than whites. Most were prepared to put up with it if the officer was polite but said that was often not the case. Maksud Ahmed, an accountant from Mile End, said he had been stopped and searched a number of times. "The car I drive is a bit fancy. It's an XR2, and I think the police have stopped me because of that. The other day they fined me because they said the number plate was unreadable but it was the standard number plate that came from the garage and I couldn't see anything wrong with it. The police need to have the power of stop and search but they seem to stop people just because they are young Asians. It has happened to a lot of my friends for no reason."

Annam Hussain, 17, said:"Some of them [police] are fussy and sarcastic. I've been standing with friends and the police have come over and said `How come you're all hanging around? Are you looking for a bash?' They think that if we're just sitting around after work and minding our own business. It is their job but there are certain ways of going about it and they never believe us when we say we aren't doing anything wrong."

Enam Islam, a youth worker who works for a City bank, said the police had a lot to learn about their attitude to young Asians. "When I was a teenager I used to get stopped all the time for no reason. We did come across as rude but if the police are rude then you don't want to co-operate with them. Often when police come from other areas and have not been exposed to Asians they think they can push us around but it doesn't work that way and usually after they have been here for a while they become more tolerant. It does annoy you but they have to do their job."