BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX     

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: UK  
News Front Page
Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe
Middle East
South Asia
UK
England
N Ireland
Scotland
Wales
Politics
Education
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
EDITIONS
Wednesday, 25 April, 2001, 14:03 GMT 15:03 UK
Oldham's racial tension 'nothing new'
Racial graffiti in Oldham
Racial graffiti in Oldham spotlights local tensions
Following the brutal racial attack on pensioner Walter Chamberlain, Oldham Chronicle editor Jim Williams takes a closer look at a problem he says has been developing locally for years.

The racial tensions which led to the attack on 76-year-old World War II veteran Walter Chamberlain in Oldham this week have been simmering for three or four years.

With significant Pakistani and Bangladeshi populations, living in similar but separate run down and depressing inner-city enclaves, the mixed Oldham community has been chafing at its edges for some time.

Last year more than 600 racist incidents were logged by Oldham police and in 60% of them the victims were white.

Jim Williams, Oldham Chronicle editor
Jim Williams: No justification for attacks
More than 180 of the racial incidents were violent and the vast majority of those were attacks by Asian youths - usually in gangs of anything from six to 20 - on lone white males.

This year has seen the stabbing of a 20-year-old man in a subway, a 16-year-old boy whose face was stamped on after he was knocked over and the attack by three Asian youths on Mr Chamberlain as he walked to his home after watching a local amateur rugby league match.

In a belated response to the problem, a multi-agency team has been set up to look at ways of improving the lot of the Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities.

Education, employment, social services, leisure facilities and improved living conditions are on the team's agenda.

But it will all take a long time. Too long for local white residents, who feel under attack.

Walter Chamberlain before surgery
The attack on Walter Chamberlain was racist
Areas of Oldham occupied by the Asian communities are considered to be no-go areas by many Oldham residents although, contrary to recent publicity, there are not - and never have been - "whites keep out" signs in any parts of the town.

Significantly, though, a recent anti-racist march, organised in response to a report that the National Front was planning a rally in Oldham, was advised to keep out of the Bangladeshi community by local leaders.

The reasons extended for the racial violence have been many and varied.

They range from poverty and unemployment, which leaves so many young Asian men with no prospects and narrow horizons, to a claim that the attacks are belated revenge for "Paki-bashing" inflicted on their families several generations ago.

More likely, however, is the view that these conflicts are territorial, that the youngsters in the Asian communities do not have their white peers' possessions and have only the territory where they live to defend.


It is criminally thuggish behaviour and looking for excuses or reasons to justify the level of violent attacks experienced in Oldham recently would be a very dangerous road to tread

Jim Williams
And defend it from any white intrusion they certainly do.

At its core, however, it is criminally thuggish behaviour and looking for excuses or reasons to justify the level of violent attacks experienced in Oldham recently would be a very dangerous road to tread.

The violence is inspired and perpetrated by a tiny minority of Oldham's largely peace-loving Asian communities and is, in the short term, a matter of policing rather than social policy.

Remedies to social problems are essential, of course, but before those remedies can be put in place the violence has to be brought to an end.

Find out more about the violence in northern England during the summer of 2001


Background

TALKING POINT

FORUM

AUDIO VIDEO
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more UK stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more UK stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes