Muslim leaders voiced fears yesterday that racist right-wing groups are already seeking to stir up hatred against their community after the bomb attacks.
Talks were being held with police and local authorities to ensure the security of mosques and areas where there are large Islamic populations.
Although the Government emphasised that it would not “jump to conclusions” about responsibility for the attacks, there was a grim acceptance among many community leaders that the perpetrators would turn out to be extremists linked to their religion.
All the large Muslim groups in Britain swiftly condemned the bombings, which they said were contrary to Islam’s highest principles of peace, justice and humanity.
Sir Iqbal Sacranie, secretary- general of the Muslim Council of Britain, said: “The evil people who planned and carried out this series of explosions want to demoralise us as a nation and divide us as a people. All of us must unite in helping the police to capture these murderers. We must remember the victims will have been people of all faiths, all races and many nationalities.”
But he later told The Times that his organisation had received thousands of e-mails from right-wing extremists threatening revenge. Sir Iqbal said: “One, which is particularly awful, reads, ‘It’s now war on Muslims throughout Britain’. These messages are all being copied and sent on to the police.
“We are advising our community to remain calm but vigilant. There are elements who will want to exploit this tragedy. In the meantime we will do everything we can to ensure that those responsible for the bombs are brought to justice.”
The British National Party immediately predicted that an Islamic terrorist group would be shown to have been behind the attacks, which would “undoubtedly lead to a fall out” in politics, increasing pressure on Tony Blair’s policy in the Middle East and his stance on immigration or asylum issues.
The party claimed that Nick Griffin, its chairman, who faces trial on criminal charges for inciting racial hatred, could be vindicated by the events of yesterday morning. In a statement it said that Mr Griffin had specifically referred to attacks on soft targets by suicide bombers who were either asylum-seekers or second generation Muslims recruited in places such as Bradford. It added: “If these bomb blasts are indeed the work of Islamic fundamentalists, the prosecution case is likely to collapse. No one is likely to be convinced that crying wolf is unlawful when the wolf has just run riot through the lambs’ pen.”