Community haunted by a neighbour it tried hard to forget

Click to follow
The Independent Online

The mood of fear and incomprehension in the suburb of Thornhill Lees, home to the Edgware Road Tube bomber Mohammed Siddique Khan, has rarely abated since the 7 July attacks.

But yesterday, the quiet community faced renewed anxiety after their former neighbour's chilling video message, in which his broad Yorkshire accent warned of more terror attacks, was broadcast across the globe.

A resident living only doors away from Khan's estranged wife said she had seen Hasina Patel remove her belongings four weeks ago and flee the area. The woman said: "I was glad to see her leave, the whole thing had sickened me and I thought it was over. And now it's back."

Simon Reed, 28, who is half-Asian and has spent most of his life living on the estate, said he felt too emotional to be able to watch Khan's final, sinister statement. He had seen Khan only three days before the bombings, and said he feared the presence of other extremist strains rising from within his community.

"I don't want to see the video. It will wind me up. So many are going to be tarred with the same brush, everybody around here is Asian. I'm only half-Asian and not a Muslim but maybe I will be targeted," he said.

A youth worker standing outside Thornhill Lees community centre said the most unnerving element of the tape was Khan's accent. "I saw the tape and was not surprised by what he was saying, but was horrified by his accent. It was amazing to see the tape with him in it. Without that accent he could have been from anywhere in the world. But he was from here, Yorkshire," he said.

He added that, in the wake of the London bombings, young Muslim boys had more readily expressed their frustration and that it had opened up a dialogue between white and Asian youths in which the Asians often spoke about their faith.

Jonathan Scott, a Conservative councillor for Dewsbury South, said he was alarmed by the cold nature of Khan's message. "This should concern us all in the sense that it's a reminder we must remain vigilant. He [Khan] had a very plausible persona and never brought attention to himself while living in the community. But this begs the question, are there other people like this man living amongst us? I dare say, within West Yorkshire and England, there are. It should cajole the community into remaining vigilant," he said.

But others felt the video would only stir up yet more racism and Islamophobia in Kirklees, a borough in which a BNP councillor, David Exley, gained more than 5,000 votes in this year's general election. Nick Griffin, the BNP leader, visited the area only last week.

Khalid Hussain, chief executive of the Racial Equality Council in Kirklees, said the video may fuel the rising tide of Islamophobia since 7 July. "They [the far right] will use this to create further dissension in the community. The number of low-level racist incidents have increased around here,' he said.

Mr Hussain, who has been appointed by the Home Secretary to sit on the task force looking into extremism, security, policing and Islamophobia, said there was a "significant" raft of young Muslims, all of whom are disillusioned and disaffected, who had been influenced by the radical ideology.

"This ideology has absolutely nothing to do with Islam, but there are some people who are influenced by it," he said. "They are trying to use international issues and wars like Kashmir, Palestine and Iraq as a means of influencing young disillusioned people. So far they have not been very successful, but 7 July demonstrated that they managed to influence at least four in the North of England."

As the afternoon Jummah prayer drew to a close yesterday at the local mosque at Thornhill Lees, committee members Muhboob Hussein and Saeed Hasiji spoke of their disgust at the memory of the bombings that this video had renewed.

"This is not Islam, this is not jihad, these people are not Muslim. This man [Khan] never came to our mosque," Mr Hussein said. "It's Muslims who have to suffer. Everyone looks at us as if we are all the same when this man was brainwashed. Islam is not about terrorism and the actions of terrorists have no place in our religion."

But Mohammed Hussain, 34, and Ansar Mahmood, 28, gave a different account. "The video told Britain, don't mess with us [Muslims]. Many people think Britain is causing this. It pisses me off what the Government is doing," Mr Hussain said.

"If the Iraq war had not happened, if Tony Blair had not got involved, the bombings would not have happened. I know there are people willing to do things, not suicide, but to do something else," he added.