Southall Sikhs attack Muslims in feud

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A mob of between 40 and 60 Sikhs rampaged through Slough in Berkshire early on Saturday, damaging cars and shops in what police described as the latest clash in an long-running dispute between Sikh and Muslim communities.

The attack happened when the Sikhs, from Southall, west London, drove to Slough late on Friday night. Members of the gang, some armed with sticks, attacked vehicles and shops in the district of Chalvey, which has a large Muslim population, over a period of one and a half hours after midnight on Saturday morning.

Police were alerted by a series of 999 calls from residents who were awakened up by fighting outside their homes. Police officers who arrived at the scene were met with a barrage of stones and other missiles and were forced to call for back-up.

Thames Valley Police said, however, that no one was injured during the attacks and that they made no arrests.Up to 86 police officers were involved as the gang members were separated into smaller groups which then left the area by car.

A spokesman for Thames Valley Police said: "This incident is the latest in a long-running dispute between Sikh and Muslim gangs in the area. Disputes flare up quite often and happen in both Slough and Southall but this was particularly bad," said a spokeswoman for Slough police.

"We liaise closely with police in Southall to try to pre-empt these clashes happening. We are not aware of any specific cause for the fighting - it tends to be younger members of the community who are involved."

Dr Athar Hussain, acting director of the Asia Unit at the London School of Economics, said that the dispute between the groups was likely to be localised rather than based on religious differences.

"Something on this large scale is fairly new. The Sikhs and Muslims both tend to come from the Punjab so the culture is quite similar: they eat the same food and speak the same language.

"They usually get on very well in Britain and that suggests the roots of this dispute have more to do with rival gangs than religion.

"Religion only becomes a factor when there is a conflict between the two groups. If there is no dispute then religion is not an issue."