Leeds Muslims riot over `burnt Koran' video

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The Independent Online
A Hindu video shop owner's plans to stock a controversial Bollywood film about the India-Pakistan war of 1971 prompted 300 Muslim youths to riot outside his shop, it emerged yesterday.

Gewal Krishna, who has run Krishna Video, on Harehills Road in Leeds, West Yorkshire, for the past seven years, announced yesterday that he had decided not to stock the film, called The Border, which includes a scene where the Koran is shown in flames, after Wednesday night's violence.

"It is not worth losing my business for and if I knew all this trouble would be caused I would never have considered it," he said. "I have not even seen the film and I can't see why these young Muslims should be picking on my shop."

Mr Krishna insisted that he had a good relationship with all his customers, 90 per cent of whom are Muslim. "The younger generation seem to be using the video as an excuse to start trouble, though I don't know who planted the idea into their heads," he added.

When The Border was screened in New Delhi last week the cinema was burnt to the ground, with the loss of 90 lives. Shubra Gupta, film critic for the Indian Express, had noted in her review: "The anti-Pakistan sentiments, which had the crowd roaring in approval ... made me uncomfortable." The five people, including three juveniles, who were arrested during the riot were yesterday released on police bail.

Mr Krishna had called police to the scene at 7.45pm after he had been threatened by some Muslim youths. Superintendent Frank Farmer, of West Yorkshire Police, said that bricks were thrown at officers, four of whom sustained minor injuries. The crowd dispersed after about five hours.

Javed Aktar, a local Labour councillor, criticised the officers' "heavy- handed" tactics. "The police presence was very high profile and that made the situation worse," he said. "A gentler approach would have calmed things down."

Mr Farmer said: "The dilemma faced by police ... is one whereby initially you must have enough police officers to respond and deal with the incident as it is taking place. You then have to leave sufficient police officers in the area to reassure the public and be able to respond to any further outbreaks."

Dr Ghayassuddin Siddiqui, leader of the Muslim Parliament, said: "I can understand the frustration of Muslims at the constant attacks on them and their religion which they feel powerless to do anything about. Bollywood is now following in the footsteps of Hollywood in producing films totally insensitive to Muslims and Islam."