Muslim fears of revenge attacks grow

Fears of revenge attacks against the Asian community in Leeds were mounting last night as Muslims spoke of their worry that they could be targeted by racists after the London bombings.

Eight people were arrested for public order offences at the Broadway pub in Beeston on Thursday night. The pub is half a mile from the home of the suicide bomber Shahzad Tanweer. A nearby community centre and bookshop were also regular meeting places for two of the other bombers, Mohammed Siddique Khan and Hasib Hussain.

Police surrounded the pub where members of a gang called the Leeds Service Crew had assembled around 90 supporters. Primarily a vehicle for football hooligans, the Service Crew has been active in Leeds since the 1970s. Police fear the far right could be about to exploit the shock felt in Leeds over the bombings.

While many parts of the city enjoy relatively good relations between the white and Asian communities, in Beeston the atmosphere has been soured by the murder two years ago of a mixed-race teenager, Tyrone Clarke. He was chased by as many as 30 Asian youths and brutally beaten. Four people were eventually convicted and given life sentences for his murder. The judge ruled that the attack was not racially motivated, but there were still reprisals.

To make matters worse, young Asians believe they are discriminated against by the police, and with feelings running high some youths were insisting they would band together to resist racists coming into the community and to defend mosques from attack. They fear that once the heavy police presence - which has been in place since it was revealed that the bombers were local - fades away, they could be vulnerable.

Arif, aged 17, needed 32 stitches after being slashed on his head in March by what he claims was a white gang. No one has been arrested for the assault, nor anyone questioned, he says. In fact, when he went to the police, they at first refused to believe he had been attacked by whites. They suggested it was the result of a drug deal gone wrong and his girlfriend's house was searched. "The police are more concerned about the whites. They pick on Asians," he said. Police insist they are taking the threat of violence seriously. Yesterday, liaison workers went door to door handing out leaflets reassuring the community that "harassment of any form will not be tolerated. We will vigorously pursue all offenders and provide support to victims," it said.

But locals say there have already been incidences of racism. One man, who wished to be known only as Mohammed, described how a white man driving a new Mercedes stopped his car outside a fish and chip shop belonging to the father of one of the bombers. "He was effing and blinding and saying 'that shop is going to be ashes'. The talk is that as soon as the police are gone away, they are coming."

At night people have been driving into the neighbourhood and shouting abuse at worshippers leaving mosques. Racist graffiti has also appeared. Yesterday council workers painted over the words "Muslims and Pakis out" written on a local furniture shop.

In Dewsbury today, members of Christian and Muslim faiths are staging a peace rally. But there have been persistent rumours that the British National Party, which counts West Yorkshire as an electoral heartland, was planning a march in the town, seeking to exploit tensions.

Meanwhile, the Government is stepping up efforts to encourage Muslim schools to "opt in" to the state education system in an attempt to ease racial tensions. The Department for Education and Skills believe it will give them greater control of what is taught in classrooms. It will also mean they are subjected to much closer scrutiny under the inspection regime of Ofsted, the education standards watchdog.

In another move, Ghayassudin Siddiqui, leader of the Muslim Parliament, will call on Muslims tomorrow to reclaim Islam from the extremists. He will tell a meeting of 3,000 Muslims at Gamgoal Sharif Mosque, in Small Heath, Birmingham, that Islam is about "social justice, tolerance and equality".


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