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Saturday, 22 September, 2001, 18:20 GMT 19:20 UK
Attacks 'no excuse for racist violence'
Yusuf Islam
Yusuf Islam: Calling for unity against racism
Racists in Britain should not be allowed to use the US terror attacks as an excuse for violence against the UK's Muslim community, says Yusuf Islam - formerly singer Cat Stevens.

Mr Islam, who became a Muslim more than 20 years ago, told the BBC that Muslims across the country were being bullied and attacked, including young children.

He called on right-minded people, both Muslims and non-Muslims, to stand up against the violence and also against international terrorism.


We believe that the civilised world is a multicultural, multi-religious world

Yusuf Islam
But he added that the increased racial tension had also produced some positive effects, with the Muslim community receiving many messages of support from ordinary British people.

Mr Islam is a spokesman for the Forum Against Islamaphobia and Racism, which is made up of representatives of the British Muslim community.

It held a meeting in London on Saturday to discuss the US attacks and the fallout for the Muslim community.

Speaking following the meeting, Mr Islam said: "We understand the anger, the anguish and suffering which this act of international terrorism has created amongst people.

"What we are worried about is the impact of the wrong kind of response to it.

Bullied

"This is a celebration for racists who will take any kind of opportunity to target innocent Muslims and bystanders and that is the kind of thing we are experiencing here and around the world."

He said some of the victims of attacks in the UK had been young children who had been bullied, spat on and assaulted while coming home from school.

"That is unacceptable in our civilised world," he said.

"We believe that the civilised world is a multicultural, multi-religious world. That is the type of message we want to get across."

But something positive has come out of the situation, he said.

'Unity'

"There have been some really wonderful expressions of concern and support from ordinary British people," he said.

"Those positive messages of unison among illuminated and like-minded people should be strengthened."

He said the government has also paid attention to the concerns of the Muslim community.

Community and religious leaders met with Home Secretary, David Blunkett, on Friday to discuss the situation and how it is being reported in the media.

East London mosque
Police patrols have increased outside many mosques
"We have discussed the establishment of a hotline with the government and Muslim organisations to deal with the kind of reporting of the situation and the collation of information on attacks," said Mr Islam.

"We have to make sure the media knows how to report this type of thing and separate the wrong doers from the innocent."

Everyone from world leaders to people on the street have to be mindful of what they say and send out a message of unity, he said.

"What we don't want is the kind of statement made by George Bush when he said 'you are either with us or against us'. This will cause a polarisation of the world and will split it into religious camps.

"It is certainly not the way it should be. It should be those right-minded people, and I think there are many who are Muslims and non-Muslims, who are not warmongers but peace makers and want this world to be a better place.

"We believed the unison of the voices of so many people standing together against international terrorism is something to be valued and something to be built upon."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Barnie Choudhury speaks to
Dr Mohammed Naseem, Chairman of Birmingham Central Mosque

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See also:

19 Sep 01 | Scotland
Scottish Muslims describe fears
19 Sep 01 | UK
UK to monitor Islamic group
19 Sep 01 | UK Politics
UK targets terrorist finances
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