Increasing evidence has emerged of a backlash against Muslims and members of ethnic minorities in the wake of the London bombings. Police forces across Britain have recorded a dramatic rise in racist assaults and abuse in the aftermath of the July 7 suicide attacks.
Four weeks after the explosions in the capital, a survey of forces by The Independent yesterday found a substantial increase in racially motivated crime, particularly in inner cities. Experts said as many as one in six of those abused or attacked were not Muslim but were simply of an Asian appearance.
As community leaders expressed alarm over the surge in race-hate crimes, a Conservative frontbench spokesman was accused of stoking racial tension by calling for Muslims to get out of Britain if they did not like its way of life.
The increased tension was further highlighted last night by a moderate cleric who suggested that Muslim women should shed their traditional veils in order to prevent themselves becoming targets.
The survey of police forces, carried out the day after the Metropolitan Police reported that faith-hate crimes had risen by 600 per cent compared with last year, showed that other large forces, such as West Yorkshire and West Midlands, had seen significant increases in race-hate crime. It also indicated that, far from being centred on London, such incidents have been recorded across Britain.
The biggest rises were in forces with urban areas with large ethnic minority populations. The number of attacks in South Yorkshire, which includes Sheffield and Doncaster, leapt from 48 in the previous July to 137. Attacks reported by West Yorkshire Police, which covers Leeds and Bradford, leapt from 195 to 366. In the West Midlands, including Birmingham, attacks increased by 46 per cent, while Merseyside saw an increase of 76 per cent. Nationally, the figures rose by 24 per cent, from 3,355 to 4,160.
In Scotland, the level of racist attacks rose from 359 to 438. The Association of Chief Police Officers Scotland said 64 could be directly linked to the London attacks "because of what was said or written at the time of the incident".
The Islamic Human Rights Commission said it had received 320 complaints of attacks on Muslims since the 7 July bombings. Before that, the average was about five a week. Beena Faridi, a case worker, said: "It seems to be happening all over the country. There is a feeling of fear on the streets."
Gerald Howarth, a Tory defence spokesman, meanwhile sparked uproar as he suggested that extremist Muslims should leave the country. "There can be no compromise with these people," he told The Scotsman. "If they don't like our way of life, there is a simple remedy - go to another country, get out."
Asked "what if those people were born in Britain?" he replied: "Tough. If you don't give allegiance to this country, then leave. There are plenty of other countries whose way of life would appear to be more conducive to what they aspire to. They would be happy and we would be happy."
His party leader, Michael Howard, last night said he stood by Mr Howarth's comments, stressing they were aimed at people who so despised Britain they wanted to bomb it.
Anas Altikriti, spokesman for the Muslim Association of Britain, responded: "Mr Howarth must realise that his own statement will have a real and serious bearing on the street. There are people who will take his words and understand them in a particular way and this will induce further harm rather than good."
Women in particular have become victims of abuse, being spat at and threatened in what campaigners called cowardly attacks. Dr Zaki Badawi, head of the Muslim College in London and chairman of the Council of Mosques and Imams, said: "In the present tense situation, with the rise of attacks on Muslims, we advise Muslim women who fear being attacked physically or verbally to remove their hijab so as not to be identified by those who are hostile to Muslims."
In what will be viewed by many as controversial advice, Dr Badawi said: "Dress is meant to protect from harm, not to invite it. The preservation of life and limb has a much higher priority than appearance, whether in dress or in speech."
Some of the most severe attacks have been in the Midlands. Two Asian restaurant workers were injured after being racially assaulted at an Indian restaurant in Atherstone, north Warwickshire. One man was stabbed and another suffered cuts.
In Edinburgh, two Asians, aged 18 and 20, were attacked by a gang of 10 men who made comments about the London bombings as they kicked the car in which the victims were travelling. They also threw a hammer through the window, smashing the glass and hitting the passenger on the shoulder.
Suresh Grover, of The Monitoring Group, said: "We have had calls from South Americans, Eastern Europeans, Hindus and Sikhs. Ten to 15 per cent are people who are a different religion to Muslims. We have one very serious case of a disabled Hindu man who was beaten up by his neighbour and left with severe head injuries while being called al-Qa'ida."
In its 26-year history, he added, The Monitoring Group had never witnessed such a level of attacks, either in number or severity. "We have received over 200 per cent more calls since 7 July. I have dealt with 83 emergency calls alone. It is not just abuse, a frightening level is actually attacks.
"We have restaurant owners receving visits from people threatening to burn down the building, a 24-year-old Turkish guy who was senselessly beaten in a park, an Iraqi schoolgirl in Devon who was beaten and an old woman who was attacked by boys outside her house in Ealing, west London."
Mr Grover said that he had been shocked by the spread of intolerance, adding: "Other drivers have started putting two fingers up and calling me a terrorist. I have never experienced anything like that before."
'I am too scared to go out walking'
Frail and frightened, Siham Kadoura emerges from her flat just once every few weeks to visit her local mosque. After years of peaceful co-existence with her neighbours, the 67-year-old former headmistress does not even dare venture out to visit her 10 grandchildren.
But it is hard to hide from the racists when bricks come through your window and dog faeces are left on your doorstep, which is daubed with a swastika. "It was the night, about three o'clock. I heard smashing. I was alone and I was very scared," said the mother of three children.
"I have tried to live with it, but I have got very, very depressed. It makes me feel I am a target. It is traumatic.
"I used to go out walking in the park and visiting my family. But I am too scared now. I have no life. I only go out once or twice a month to the mosque and the shops."
Mrs Kadoura, who lives alone, has recently had a hip operation and has heart problems. She has had her car repeatedly vandalised, despite its disabled sticker.
She is not alone. Attendance at her local mosque, she explained, has halved because people were afraid.
She had never experienced racism until the 11 September terrorist attacks. Then, suddenly, groups of boys began swearing and spitting at her in the hallways. After a while, the racists faded away but, she said, they are back with a vengeance since the attacks on London.
'Look at what you have done'
Aman Moradi, a shopkeeper, 45, was racially abused by David Parritt, a postman, who pushed her in the face before calling her a "fucking Muslim". He was given a community sentence yesterday.
"No one in London would feel safe in the presence of any one Muslim," he said to her. The attack took place on 7 July, the same day as the London bombings.
"Today you fucking put the bomb on the train. Look at what the fuck you have done, you fucking Muslims," he said.
Parritt, age 45, spat outside the shop on Fulham Road, pushed the shopkeeper in the face and sent a display of chocolates flying inside.
In mitigation for Parritt, his solicitor at West London magistrates' court said: "I think there is no reason an individual should not feel anger but it is entirely regrettable it was directed at this individual who had no association with the events."
Parritt was sentenced to 200 hours community service with £70 compensation and £85 costs after previously pleading guilty to racially aggravated common assault and racially aggravated criminal damage.
Speaking after the case, Parritt said: "I regret what I did and I shall not do it again. I regretted it straight afterwards, to be honest, and I hope no one else innocent gets injured from either community."