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Friday, 28 September, 2001, 21:34 GMT 22:34 UK
Prince's mosque visit strikes a chord
Prince Charles and Hackney residents
Prince Charles received a warm welcome in Hackney
By BBC News Online's community affairs reporter Cindi John

The soulful melody of the call to prayers at the Suleymaniye mosque in Dalston is something local residents are well used to.

The borough of Hackney has a large ethnic minority population and mosques are a not uncommon sight in the area.

The huge minaret - or tower - of the mosque which dominates the local skyline is an accepted part of the local landscape.

But this Friday there is a larger than average crowd milling around outside, including many non-Muslims.

Suleymaniye mosque
The mosque caters for a large Muslim community

Traffic slows down as it passes the mosque as drivers crane to get a better view.

News has spread that Prince Charles is to visit the mosque in a show of solidarity with a Muslim community which feels under siege since the US terror attacks.

Metal barriers have been put in place by police officers to keep back both the growing crowd of curious local people and the media.

Among those waiting for the prince to arrive was mosque committee member Halil Valkir.

Hackney's ethnic mix
White: 66%
Black: 22%
Indian: 3.5%
Bangladeshi: 1.8%
Chinese: 1.1%
Pakistani: 1%
Other Asian: 1.4%
Other: 2.9%
Source: 1991 census

Mr Valkir said the prince's visit was long overdue but that there were no particular race problems in the area - which he said was well integrated.

"My children go to school with children of other faiths. I think this is helpful for us to learn to live without problems," he added.

'Stirring things up'

That sentiment was echoed by many of the local people brought out by the pleasant, unseasonably bright sunshine.

Tulya, a local schoolgirl who had stopped off on her way home to see what was happening said she was "shocked" the prince was visiting as community relations in the area did not need improving.

"It's all right being a Muslim around here because there are loads of us," she said.
Koyssor Hussain
Koyssor Hussain: Other areas have worse problems

Koyssor Hussain, who lives near the mosque said he was pleased by the prince's visit.

But he said he believed other areas suffered more from racial tension.

"In places like Kings Cross there have been a few attacks but around here there haven't been many problems so far."

He added that Tony Blair and the government were doing well in making it clear Muslims were not to blame for the US attacks, but he criticised the media for "stirring things up".

Mr Blair also came in for praise from Arif Yilmiez who had come to the mosque to attend prayers.

He said: "I think they are doing a good job, especially yesterday when Mr Blair and the Muslim community got together."

'Hardened racists'

Prince Charles's visit attracted a wide cross section of the Dalston community.

Some did not have far to go to see the royal visitor.

Residents of council flats opposite peered out from windows and stood chatting in their doorways waiting for him to arrive.

Phil Phillips and customer
Phil Phillips said different races mixed well
Watching from his shop just across the road was hairdresser Phil Phillips.

Mr Phillips said in his 40 years in the area he had never known community relations to be anything but good.

He said: "It's good that Prince Charles has come just to see that people do get on round here, all different nationalities."

But Rastafarian Carlton Williamson said that while generally relations between communities were peaceful, pockets of racism did exist.

"Everybody just sticks to themselves and goes about their own business but you still got your hardened racists who still want to fight, you've got them on both sides," he said.


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