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Friday, 24 May, 2002, 12:07 GMT 13:07 UK
Islamophobia 'explosion' in UK
Alvia Mosque in Bolton, at which a 'suspicious' fire broke out
Anti-Muslim feeling has "detonated" in the UK
Muslim groups have agreed with a report by the EU race watchdog that anti-Islamic feeling has "detonated" in the UK since 11 September.

The European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC) said there had been a big rise in attacks - including physical assaults - on Muslims in Britain since the US terror attacks.

It monitored a period from 11 September until the end of December last year, and found numerous reports of attacks on Muslim people and institutions such as mosques.

They included women and children being harassed in the street, and one taxi-driver who was paralysed from the neck down in an attack in which 11 September was mentioned.

Examples of attacks on Muslims in UK
Windows smashed at Glasgow's central mosque
10 pigs' heads left outside an Essex mosque
Afghan taxi driver paralysed in an attack during which his attackers referred to 11 September
Woman and children chased into own home by men who called them terrorists
Asian woman attacked with a hammer on a train by a man who shouted: "You want killing for what you did in America"
Source: EUMC

Muslim groups said anti-Islamic feeling was still running high in the UK even now - more than eight months after the attacks thought to have been masterminded by Saudi dissident Osama Bin Laden.

Aizu Merani of the Islamic Human Rights Commission said 11 September had been a catalyst for a "major explosion" in anti-Islamic feeling in the UK.

"It's much more overt than before," she told BBC News Online.

"Before the end of last year we had the feeling maybe people felt things but would be ashamed to say them. Now they will say them quite openly."

She said the main problem appeared to be bullying and harassment - particularly in the workplace and in schools.

Employment cases ranged from passing comments by employers, to cases of dismissal in which Islamic harassment had been cited.

Ms Merani said Muslim pupils were often bullied by others, with incidents ranging from taunts such as "You're Osama Bin Laden", to children being beaten up in the playground.

She believes this is the result of a "knock-on" effect caused by damaging comments from politicians, the media and public figures such as teachers in the immediate aftermath of the attacks.

'Be more sensitive'

The EU report said police, politicians, media and public figures had on the whole tried to prevent attacks on Muslim targets and reduce the sense of threat felt by the Muslim community.

But Muslim groups have said politicians are still causing problems with insensitive comments.

Muslim girls
Muslim children are being bullied and taunted
The Muslim Council of Britain recently expressed concerns about comments from Home Secretary David Blunkett about "isolationism" amongst the Muslim community.

The council said: "Unwillingness to integrate, forced marriages and asylum-seekers [are] not Muslim-exclusive - yet these were being used to stigmatise the entire community."

The Council of Racial Equality has also criticised Europe minister Peter Hain for possibly fuelling Islamophobia - again with comments on separatism.

Spokesman Shahid Malik said: "Many Muslims in this country are feeling like it is open season on Islam and Muslims and that they are under siege.

"Of course, these comments will reinforce much of that."

Education

Ms Merani called on politicians to "be more responsible" when making pronouncements, to ensure they did not "inadvertently give succour to extreme views".


We're lumbered with the legacy of damage done in the immediate aftermath of the attacks

IHRC
When asked about attitudes in the media, Ms Merani said the press had improved its stance since its sometimes inflammatory reporting during the immediate aftermath of the terror attacks.

"But in a way that's irrelevant - the damage was done in quite a serious way in September last year."

Ms Merani said she would welcome legislation against racial discrimination.

But she said the only way to tackle Islamophobia in the long-term was at its roots, with a systematic investment in education and training.

The EUMC has also expressed concerns about anti-Semitism in Europe, saying conflict in the Middle East had led to an "incredible number" of attacks on Jews.

The centre will publish a special report on anti-Semitism next month.

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See also:

13 May 02 | UK Politics
29 Apr 02 | England
27 Mar 02 | N Ireland
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