Muslims call for calm after mosque attacks

By Robert Verkaik, Legal Affairs Correspondent
Published: 12 July 2005

Muslim leaders have called for calm after a series of attacks on mosques in the wake of the London bombings.

Iqbal Sacranie, secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, said in a letter to leaders of Muslim communities: "We know that there may be some unscrupulous elements in our society who may look upon Thursday's carnage as a morbid opportunity to attack and undermine British Muslims, their institutions and mosques."

There were reports of arson and criminal damage attacks on mosques in east and south London, Bristol, Leeds, Telford and Birkenhead. Police were investigating several other attacks on Asians that may have been linked to the bombings.

Police have increased patrols in Muslim areas of Bristol and were meeting community leaders to reassure them that they were making every effort to protect them from further attacks.

On Friday evening bottles were thrown at the Jamia mosque in the Totterdown district of Bristol. At about the same time a mosque and an Islamic school in Mile End, east London, had their windows smashed.

A similar incident took place on Sunday at the Shajalal mosque in Easton, Bristol, where stones were thrown at its windows in the early hours. No one was hurt in the attacks.

Superintendent Tim Lee, who is investigating the attack on the Shajalal mosque, said: "We are working with representatives from the mosque to catch the people responsible for this mindless vandalism. It is vital that we do not let the terrible events of last week divide our communities. The people who carried out the bombings in London are criminals who committed mass murder - it was an attack on all communities in the UK."

Dr Sacranie, in his letter to Britain's imams, echoed these sentiments and urged Muslims to report all incidents of Islamophobia to the police.

He said: "Let us be absolutely clear: those who planned and carried out these heartless attacks - whoever they are and whatever faiththey may claim to profess - are surely the enemies of all of us, Muslims and non-Muslims." Dr Sacranie blamed the media for fanning the flames of intolerance by publishing what he described as "Islamophobic propaganda", and has asked the Home Secretary to write to newspapers urging them to show more restraint.

"Regrettably, it appears that some prominent media commentators well-known for their hostility to Islam and Muslims have also decided to take part in this mischievous campaign," he said. "There is no need, however, to be daunted or intimidated by their Islamophobic propaganda. We should continue to lead our daily lives normally and in accordance with the tenets of Islam."

Nervous days

FURKAN SHARIF, 24, trainee lawyer from Hackney: "I travel a great deal for work and can't stop because of the attacks. There has been tension on the Tube the last few days alongside a heavy police presence in stations and the City, but you can't stop what you're doing, it wouldn't be a sensible response to the threat. Being from a Muslim background you've now got eyes looking at you as you walk down the platform. I feel as British as anyone but in some people's minds that doesn't matter. It's natural to be more suspicious at a time like this but it isn't an excuse for prejudice."

KASHIEF DUNBAR, 40, gym sales and marketing manager: "London in the aftermath of the bombing reminds me of Cape Town during apartheid. All those years of racial hatred are coming back to me. I have been living in London with my wife for three years now but I remember how it felt to be persecuted for the colour of my skin."

PRAMOD PENCELIAH, 21, a security guard at Trocadero: "I am from South Africa and am of Indian origin but I can tell people are looking at the colour of my skin and thinking 'he's a Muslim'. I was in a bar and a white guy was staring at me. I could tell he was stereotyping me. I don't blame people for doing this but I wish they could see I am as against the killing of innocent people as they are and now I feel just as scared as they do on buses and trains."

SANGIP PATEL, 23, student from Finchley: "I have been apprehensive about taking the bus or Tube. I'm a bit concerned that I will be viewed suspiciously if it turns out that Muslims were behind the attacks. But you have to trust others to be fair. I will carry on with my life as normal and try not worry about either."

SHALIM MIAH, 28, train announcer, from Manor Park: "I am a fundamentalist Muslim and by that I mean that I believe in the original lessons of Islam - those which teach peace and harmony among men. I condemn these senseless acts of violence. The terrorists are not Muslims - they are misguided, misled and brainwashed. The media should stop using the term Islamic terrorists - the two are totally separate things. I am lucky that here in London people are open-minded and understand that these people do not reflect the real Muslim community. Londoners won't change, they've seen it all before.''

WAHEED ARAF, 27, from Hackney: "These attacks are giving all Muslims a bad name. We are all portrayed as the same no matter what we believe. Now, I am looking at other Asians who look like me and think maybe it could be them. I feel that some people will see all Muslims in the same light. I haven't done anything wrong but all Muslims have been dragged into this."


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