Thug jailed for anti-Muslim racism

A racist who branded a Muslim shopkeeper a terrorist on the day of the London bombings has been jailed.

James McKeown, 37, of no fixed address, launched a tirade of abuse after spotting Mohammed Mahmood, who was wearing traditional Muslim dress, as he walked along Victoria Road, Cambridge, on July 7. McKeown shouted: “Look what you’ve done to London you terrorist, go back to your own country”, before following him along the road hurling further abuse and threatening him with violence.

Police said the incident was an unprovoked attack on a “very calm, quiet man”, and welcomed McKeown’s prison sentence. The 37-year-old was convicted of racially aggravated harassment at Cambridge Crown Court and jailed for 130 days.

However Mr Mahmood, who has lived in Cambridge for 39 years and run the Nasreen Dar store in Histon Road since 1979, said racist abuse was not uncommon in the city. He said: “In Cambridge if every incident was reported you would see it has happened hundreds of times since 9/11 and the July 7 attacks.”

He said he feared for his safety, and the safety of his wife and sister-in-law who were waiting for him when McKeown climbed out of a window of the hostel at 222 Victoria Road and began to insult him.

He said: “It was very aggressive, so I began to walk away, but this is my home so I can’t run – where would I run to? Even so I would have excused him if he said sorry and promised not to behave like that again, but the courts felt he deserved a prison sentence and I do believe those who commit crimes should be punished.”

Cambridge Evening News, 16 December 2005