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Tuesday, 3 July, 2001, 18:21 GMT 19:21 UK
Race riot town seeks answers
Boarded up shops in Colne Road
Businesses were targeted during the recent violence
By BBC News Online's community affairs reporter Cindi John

Reminders of the recent violent unrest in Burnley are still fresh in Colne Road where the burnt out Duke of York pub faces a row of boarded up shops.

Last weekend the violence flared briefly again in the town when an Asian-owned business was also burnt out.

But since then things have been relatively calm and all sides of the community are hoping to keep it that way.

Some believe the key lies in closer co-operation between the town's Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities who make up the bulk of the 5,000 people of south Asian descent in Burnley.

Rafiq Malik
Rafiq Malik: Spokesman for newly-formed group

A newly formed alliance, Burnley Asians Against Racism, hopes to help bring stability to the town.

A spokesman for the group, Rafiq Malik, told BBC News Online their aim was to ensure accurate information reached the community and prevent further outbreaks of violence.

"It will be informing the community because there is a lot of rumour and gossip being spread," he said.

Mr Malik, who is Burnley's deputy mayor, said they would also try and work with the police and local authorities and other community groups to prepare some sort of action plan.

Duke of York pub
The Duke of York pub was burnt out during the violence
"We can't just wipe out this scar of the last week's tragic situation but I'm confident that things will improve," he said.

But Apu Chowdhury, a council outreach worker with the Bangladeshi community, feared a pattern of violence was now established.

"I think the violence will spread and come back again and again.

"I tell young people who I work with a lot that we can't really fight real racism with sticks and stones we have to fight it intellectually," he said.

Deprived communities

Many of Burnley's Asians live in the areas worst hit by the recent racial violence.

Apu Chowdhury said some of the severest deprivation in Burnley was to be found there.

Apu Chowdhury
Apu Chowdhury: 'Fight racism intellectually"

"Life is pretty hard here in terms of high unemployment, poor housing, very few activities or opportunities here for young people," he said.

Mohammed Sher Ali Miah, of the Bangladeshi Welfare Association, said that since the disturbances they had been working with their communities to try and root out the cause for the disturbances.

"We've done our bit, we've been talking to the youngsters on the street and other members of the community.

"Messages have gone out from the local mosques that whatever has happened there should not be any more trouble. Because at the end of the day the whole community loses if there is any more violence," Mr Miah said.

He also believed unemployment among young people was a key factor.

He said Burnley's south Asian communities had been particularly hard hit because of employment patterns of Bangladeshi and Pakistani immigrants.

Mohammed Sher Ali Miah
Mohammed Sher Ali Miah: "Bangladeshis hard hit by unemployment"

"The majority of the workers who came during the 50s and 60s were working in foundries and textiles companies but they have now closed down," he said.

He added that many Bangladeshis found it hard to get jobs in the new information technology companies which had replaced textiles as the growth industry in the town.

"They can obtain the necessary skills but at the end of the day it's up to the local industries whether they want to take these people on.

"I wouldn't say it's directly related to racism but people are applying and at the end of the day if companies are not taking them on," he said.

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


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26 Jun 01 | UK
25 Jun 01 | UK
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