Bomber's family: why we fear the racial backlash

By Arifa Akbar and Ian Herbert
Published: 16 July 2005

The family of one of the London suicide bombers has revealed how it has become "criminalised, persecuted and vilified" amid growing fears of a racial backlash in the wake of the atrocities.

The despair expressed by Mohammed Sidique Khan's family is the first tangible evidence of how the blasts have affected those close to the bombers.

Sir Iqbal Sacranie, secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, revealed the experiences of Khan's family after meeting the bomber's mother-in-law, Farida Patel, 65, at her request. "Not only do they have to face the loss and what has happened," Sir Iqbal said, "but they now feel utterly vilified. The son-in law might be a criminal but they feel the family has been criminalised. [Mrs Patel] is afraid to go home. [It's] an area where the BNP exist in big numbers."

Hasina Khan, estranged wife of the bomber, and her mother- a former secondary school teacher - are both too frightened to return to their homes in Dewsbury for fear of retribution in a community where racial tensions have been tangible in the past 48 hours.

The family's fears were revealed as a clearer picture emerged of Khan's transition from respected family man to the suicide bomber responsible for the Edgware Road blast that left seven people dead. The Independent has learnt that Khan separated from Hasina late last year, around the time she fell pregnant with their second child, because they had so many disagreements about his "approach to life". A source said a critical factor in the separation was his growing religious fervour.

Khan was so valued in his job as a teaching assistant that he was invited on a primary school delegation last year which met the International Development Secretary, Hilary Benn, at the House of Commons. He was also invited to the home of the school's headteacher, Sarah Trickett, and her husband, John, the Labour MP for Hemsworth in West Yorkshire.

Mr Trickett said he was "profoundly disturbed" that a man " who seemed to care so deeply for the children should callously take the lives of others only a year later".

Further details have been revealed of the links between Khan and his fellow bombers. He had known Shazhad Tanweer, the Aldgate Tube bomber, since 1996, when they attended a youth centre in Leeds.

Khan's family had been unaware of the extent of his radicalisation. After leaving the marital home in Dewsbury, and moving to another property in the town, Khan visited his estranged wife and 14-month-old daughter Maryam just a couple of times a month. He had initially eschewed a traditional arranged marriage, after falling in love with Hasina while studying at Dewsbury College.

Khan's sudden change in outlook may also explain the state of depression which some associates say he suffered before the bombings.

The family of Hasib Hussain said last night that they were "devastated" by the events of the past week. In a statement released through West Yorkshire Police, they described the 18-year- old as "a loving and normal young man who gave us no concern".

"We are having difficulty taking this in," the statement said. " Our thoughts are with all the bereaved families and we have to live ourselves with the loss of our son in these difficult circumstances."

The family said that they had no knowledge of his activities. "Had we done we would have done everything in our power to stop him," they said. "We urge anyone with information about these events, or leading up to them, to co-operate fully with the authorities.

Hussain's family reported him missing about 12 hours after he detonated the bomb on the No 30 bus in Tavistock Square.

Sir Iqbal also voiced concern about material belonging to the Patel family that was shown on television in the aftermath of Tuesday's raids - despite the fact that it had been seized by police as possible evidence in the investigation into Khan.

Though the provenance of the material is unclear, Sir Iqbal said he intended to approach senior police officers about it.

Mrs Patel and her son-in-law shared a mutual interest in education; her work in Dewsbury schools had earned her an invitation to Buckingham Palace.

Sir Iqbal visited Leeds yesterday to begin an investigation into radicalism among Muslim youths. He visited four youth centres in 24 hours and said he had found no evidence of extremism. But he said many youths had expressed their frustration over issues including British foreign policy and the political conflict in the Middle East, and felt that their opinions were not being heard.

"There is a feeling of seeing atrocities being conducted in various parts of the world and some of them felt there was nobody talking to government," he said.


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