Find the men behind brutal racist attack

A Muslim who was beaten up by racist thugs in West Hampstead says he may leave the country to escape more abuse. Fawad Qayyum has to eat through a straw and his speech could be permanently damaged after his jaw was smashed in the attack near Finchley Road.

The 30-year-old was with a friend in Petros Gardens, near the Lithos Road Estate, at 9.30pm on Tuesday last week. His friend became involved in an argument about how his car was parked when two men appeared and started shouting anti-Muslim abuse at Mr Qayyum, who was standing nearby.

Mr Qayyum said: “Two or three guys came and started abusing me saying, ‘We are going to kill you, we are going to smash the car’. Next they punched me in the face, maybe with a weapon. I was on the floor and they kept punching me. I think they might have kicked me as well but I did not have my full senses.”

The beating was so severe he had to stay at the Royal Free Hospital for three days and now faces a string of operations.

Despite dozens of people witnessing the incident, detectives have hit a wall of silence as nobody has come forward with the attackers’ identity.

Detective Constable Cheryl Haque, of Camden Police, said they need help from neighbours. She said: “A witness has told us it was racially motivated but she doesn’t want to give a statement. I think a lot of people have got information and they know who did it but they are scared about speaking out.”

Mr Qayyum, a data support analyst, said due to the attack and the anti-Muslim feeling surfacing since the July 7 bombings he has considered leaving the country. He said: “I am really thinking it is not safe here. I have lived here most of my life but I am thinking of going back to Pakistan. I got my education here and I have put my heart and soul into this country, but at this stage I feel like a stranger.”

Mr Qayyum, who is staying with friends off Finchley Road, urged members of the community to help catch the attackers. He said: “This is not just for me but these people will think they can get away with it and attack more innocent victims.”

The assault is one of a spate of faith crimes in Camden since July 7. Figures show that there has been a 600 per cent increase in Camden since last month’s terrorist attacks.

But, says Superintendent Martin Richards, of Camden Police, this paints a false picture. He said: “The increase in numbers is from four to 25, which would make it 600 per cent. But that is quite alarmist and in real terms it hasn’t been that many more.”

Police and council bosses met at the Surma Centre, in Robert Street, Somers Town, last week to discuss how to help the Muslim community. Racists have twice daubed the centre with graffiti saying the building would be burned down.

Enayet Sarwar, the centre’s manager, said: “The bombings were a dreadful thing for all human beings. When it came out that it was Islamic terrorists people became scared about the repercussions. The council and police are doing all they can. People here do feel concerned but there has not been much in the way of harassment.”

• Police are hunting two men of European appearance, aged about 20 and wearing hooded tops in connection with the attack on Mr Qayyum. Anyone with information should call the police on 020-8733 6471 or, to remain anonymous, Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

Victims of racial harassment can report incidents on 0800 138 1661. The Communities Together line will offer support to the vulnerable on 0800 028 2390.

Hampstead & Highgate Express, 12 August 2005