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Wednesday, 19 September, 2001, 10:15 GMT 11:15 UK
Muslim leaders debate race hate
Bolton's Alvia Mosque, which was attacked on Monday night
Muslim communities in Greater Manchester feel threatened
Civic leaders in Greater Manchester are meeting following concerns about the growing level of racial anger being directed at Muslims. In recent days two mosques, one in Manchester the other in Bolton, have been firebombed. By the BBC's Barnie Choudhury.

Birmingham, Bradford and Manchester are three cities with huge Muslim communities.

Just as sure as eggs are eggs they knew that once "Muslim fundamentalists or Islamic terrorists" were linked to the appalling attacks in the States, they would become the next targets: targets for racial abuse, picked out among the sea of faces because they look and sound different.

But their plaintiff cry is a familiar one echoing around the world. Why won't people stop and listen to what we have to say?


The entire community in Manchester from all faith groups and all communities stand committed to justice

Martin Pagel, Manchester City Council deputy leader
At one mosque I visited, the Khateeb Darul-Islamia in Longsight south of Manchester city centre, evening prayers were in progress.

The 150 worshippers were, without exception, praying for peace ... among themselves and around the world irrespective of cast, colour or creed.

After all true believers say this is the real message of Islam.

Over tea and savouries, they had just one question.

If they condemn the attack, which they do, they cannot understand why their places of worship should be targeted.

Elsewhere, detectives have confirmed a small explosive device caused minor damage at a mosque in Bolton on Monday night.

It is the second to be attacked in as many days.

Misunderstandings

The Secretary of the Bolton Council of Mosques, Farouk Mangera, believes the attackers have misunderstood Islam

He said: "People over here have decided to take the law upon themselves and try to attack institutions like the mosques which the Muslims use as a prayer area or prayer facilities."

This heightened antipathy, perceived or otherwise, towards Muslims has shaken many to the core.

Riot police face an angry crowd in Oldham
Race riots erupted on the streets of Oldham in the summer
There is real fear and concern that the Muslim faith has been demonised once again.

Some, like Saima Ahmed from Stockport, feel they now have to take steps to make sure they are not victimised.

She said: "I don't know what people think about when I'm wearing hajab (head scarf).

"I stopped wearing the coat - you know the long coat - just because of this, and also my daughter she goes to an Islamic school and my daughter in her school uniform wears hajab and, you know, the coat it's compulsory."

Struggle for harmony

So how do the different communities assuage such troubled feelings?

A special meeting between civic leaders and representatives from the Asian communities to discuss the growing fears takes place on Wednesday.

Deputy leader of the local authority, Martin Pagel, is clear - a harmonious Manchester will not stand by and watch its communities being attacked.

He said: "The entire community in Manchester from all faith groups and all communities stand committed to justice.

"I will not see an attempt to divide our communities."

Many will see this as yet another talking shop.

What will be important is the message, and any action, that comes out of the meeting.


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17 Sep 01 | Americas
A community under siege
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