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Last Updated: Monday, 17 July 2006, 11:22 GMT 12:22 UK
Tension among Mumbai's Muslims
By Suvojit Bagchi
BBC News, Mumbai

Muslims pray outside one of the blast sites
Mumbai's Muslims have come out in strength against the blasts
Hundreds of Muslims have been questioned by police in the Indian city of Mumbai following last week's serial bombings.

Suspicion has fallen on the Lashkar-e-Toiba, a Kashmiri militant group based in Pakistan, as well as radical Islamic groups based in India prompting the security agencies to concentrate their inquiries on the city's Muslim community for any leads.

This has created a growing sense of uneasiness among the city's four million Muslims, who have come out in strength to condemn the attacks.

Mumbai has a history of tensions between the city's Muslim minority and Hindu majority, although initial fears of a backlash targeting the community have proved unfounded.

Temkar Mohalla is a predominantly Muslim neighbourhood in south Mumbai.

On the surface, it appears to be business as normal. Tailors are busy sewing wedding garments and local bakery shops are filled with buyers.

The narrow lanes of Temkar Mohalla are lined with stores selling everything from household utensils to toilet paper.

There is a sense of underlying tension which is palpable.

We try to talk to an old cleric just outside one of south Mumbai's most prominent mosques, Rasool Masjid.

"Please don't ask questions. Thank you," is his response.

Crime lord's den

Not a single person agrees to speak to us for a couple of hours.

Abu Asim Azmi
If you have a beard and a cap, you will be stopped in the street and questioned
Abu Asim Azmi
Muslim politician
"Nobody is going to talk here. Police are picking up Muslims across the city. Two boys got picked up here last night," says a local lawyer, Syed Haris.

Mr Haris and his friend Abdul Rehman, a local bakery shop owner takes us further inside the neighbourhood, away from the main streets.

Temkar Mohalla is where one of the city's most notorious crime lords, Dawood Ibrahim grew up.

One of India's most wanted men, he is believed to be living in Pakistan and is suspected of involvement in the 1993 Mumbai bombings in which some 250 people died.

"Whenever something happens in Mumbai, we get picked up because Dawood stayed here," Mr Haris says.

They refuse to show us his house, which still exists in Temkar Mohalla.

"Its too risky after the blast," Mr Rehman says.

Media target

Instead they take us to Hussain Hall, a local assembly hall, where a meeting of the Muslim clerics of South Mumbai is going on.

Muslims outside Mumbai's Haji Ali mosque
Many in the community say they feel they are unfairly targeted
"If you have a beard and a cap, you will be stopped in the street and questioned. Only Muslims are getting picked up across the city. I am going to raise this in parliament," we hear as we enter the hall.

The speaker is a member of India's Upper House, Abu Asim Azmi.

"Muslims are targeted by both administration and political parties. We are fearing a fall out of the blast," Mr Azmi tells us later.

Another speaker, Maulana Athar of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, said Muslims are targeted by the media too.

"We are not against an investigation. Suspects have to be picked up and that is fine.

Not a single incident has taken place when a Muslim cab driver or tea seller has been assaulted by Hindus
Maulana Hafeza

"But all the suspects rounded up by police in last few days have been photographed by the media," Mr Athar says.

In particular he feels that displaying images of the suspects on Indian television is unfair and misleading since they have not been convicted of any crime.

But all the clerics praised the city's Hindu majority for showing "great restraint".

"Not a single incident has taken place when a Muslim cab driver or tea seller has been assaulted by Hindus, when they could have easily done that.

"So amidst all this fear and apprehensions we need to admit, that sanity prevailed," says another cleric, Maulana Hafeza.

On Saturday, the residents of south Mumbai, Hindus and Muslims, rallied in order to maintain peace in the area.

However, Najim Masudi, who lost his daughter in the Mumbai riots of 1993 said he still felt something could happen.

"In 1993 communal riots broke out when we believed the worst was over," he said

So this time he has decided not to allow his seven-year-old younger daughter, Zubaida, to go to school until the city calms down completely.


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