Muslim fears grow over dramatic rise in violence, arson and verbal abuse against Asians since bombings

Chief Reporter,Terry Kirby
Friday 29 July 2005 00:00

Incidents being reported include verbal abuse and spitting directed at Muslims in the street, graffiti and vandalism of Asian homes and mosques and some assaults on individuals. There have also been at least two incidents of arson and one car being damaged. Three days after the 7 July bombings, an Asian man was murdered in Nottingham. A number of people have been arrested in connection with the killing.

The Muslim Safety Forum said that the number of "faith-related" crimes reported to the police in London had risen from 35 in the same period last year to around 230 this year.

And the Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC), which collects anecdotal reports from around the country, said that attacks on Muslims had risen from a just a handful a week to more than 250 since the bombings - almost as many as the total for the month after the 11 September attacks.

Although the Metropolitan Police have gone out of their way to stress that the bombings were the work of criminals and their investigations are not confined to one ethnic group, Muslim groups said that "a climate of fear" exists within their communities.

Tahir Butt, a member of the Forum, said that "irresponsible" headlines in some sections of the media had helped foster anti-Muslim feelings. He said: "The Metropolitan Police say they have a policy of zero tolerance of hate crime. We want to make sure that the guidelines for officers dealing with these cases are taken seriously and that the complaints of Muslims are dealt with properly.

"Unfortunately sometimes the words and policies of senior officers are not always heard at ground level, where some people do not get the message.''

The groups stressed that many of the incidents involved Muslim women being abused - sometimes in places such as supermarket checkout queues - for simply wearing the hajib. Others have had rubbish thrown at them in public, have not been allowed to board public transport and one elderly Muslim woman in a wheelchair was verbally abused and had bottles thrown at her home, according to the IHRC.

Beena Faridi, a case worker with the IHRC, said: "I think the reports we are getting are just the tip of the iceberg because many Muslims simply do not want to go to the police. There is a climate of fear out there that is very worrying." Massoud Shadjareh, the IHRC's chairman, said that it was "extremely concerned at the escalation of backlash attacks". He added: "The enormous upsurge in Islamophobic attacks and the lack of clear-cut condemnation by the Government does not bode well for Muslims in Britain or for British society as a whole."

In Birmingham yesterday, there were demands from an MP for the chair of the city's Central Mosque to resign after he questioned the existence of al-Qa'ida and said he had yet to see any proof linking the four men named as the 7 July bombers with the atrocities.

Khalid Mahmood, the Labour MP for Birmingham Perry Barr, said the position of Dr Mohammad Naseem, one of the city's most prominent Muslims, had become "untenable".

In interviews since the arrest on Wednesday of Yasin Hassan Omar, Dr Naseem said he had never seen evidence that al-Qa'ida existed, suggesting it was an invention of the CIA, an organisation he described as untrustworthy.

Referring to the 7 July bombers, he said: "I have not seen evidence to link these four people to acts of terrorism."

Mr Mahmood said: "It's wholly unacceptable and, in light of what he has said, he certainly should resign. He has his head in the sand. It's untenable for him to do what he has done - it's like saying black is white - and I don't know what sort of evidence he needs."

The MP said he believed that the mosque official - who stood as a candidate for the Respect party in the general election in May - should relinquish his position as chair.

Incidents reported

Some of the incidents of abuse reported to the Islamic Human Rights Commission

* 7 JULY: Garage at the home of a Muslim woman in south London destroyed by suspected arson

* 11 JULY: "Kill all Muslims" graffiti daubed on wall of primary school in Stratford, east London

* 11 JULY: Pakistani Consulate in Bradford, west Yorkshire, damaged by fire in suspected arson attack

* 12 JULY: Asian family in Hayes, west London, victims of suspected arson attack when burning object is left outside home

* 12 JULY: Asian teenager assaulted by white man in Edinburgh; sustained facial injuries

* 13 JULY: Group of Muslim girls in Newcastle assaulted by males who attempted to rip their hajibs off them

* 23 JULY: Muslim woman abused and threatened by National Front members during a march in central London

* 26 JULY: Man with a baseball bat attacked a car containing a group of women in Islamic dress in central London