London’s Muslims feel public hostility

Muslim youths walked with a determined stride to London’s East End Mosque to say their prayers on Friday, just hours after armed police surrounded the building after a bomb threat.

Wearing the traditional shalwaar kameez, their heads crowned with the white prayer caps of Islam, swathes of young second-generation Muslims from Pakistan and Bangladesh made their way to the mosque on Whitechapel Road, one of the oldest and busiest in London.

Other teenagers on their way to prayers said they felt all Asians were suffering at the moment, whether they were muslim, sikh or hindu, and that few of the public really understood that only a minority of Muslims engage in terrorism, with the majority condemning it.

“Anyone with brown skin is suffering from these attacks. When I get on a bus, I feel very afraid. People look at me suspiciously and some even shout ‘Bin Laden, Bin Laden’ at me,” said Siratu.

The Muslim Council of Britain , which has been working with government to improve community relations, expressed concern about developments on Friday: “We are getting phone calls from quite a lot of Muslims who are distressed about what may be a shoot-to-kill policy,” said a spokesman.

“I feel much more harrassed now. The incidents that have happened have not helped the muslim community as a whole. All terrorists are now being classed as muslim,” said Mez, a teenager from Bangladesh. “When the IRA was bombing London, people never said whether they were Catholic or Protestant, so what’s the difference? The British government have alienated us,” Mez added.

He went on to argue that, despite all the terrorist attacks which have happened since September 11, the root of the problem had still not been addressed by the public.

“In Iraq and Palestine people are dying on a daily basis and no one is holding silences for them. What is happening in those two countries is the root of the problem of terrorism. Give the Iraqis and the Palestinians support and it will stop,” Mes said.

“America ain’t playing fair,” said Rash, another you Bangladeshi said yesterday as his friends nodded their heads in clear agreement. “I’d still rather live here than there,” he finally concluded.

Financial Times, 22 July 2005