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Last Updated: Tuesday, 4 July 2006, 09:12 GMT 10:12 UK
Communities rebuilding after 7 July
By Dominic Casciani
BBC News community affairs

A year on from the London bombings, and the revelation that the plot was hatched in Leeds, can anyone come away from Yorkshire with genuine optimism, rather than just hope?

Last year: The news on sale in Beeston

In public, there are efforts to put on a brave face in Leeds.

Mohammed Iqbal, the first Asian city councillor to hold the post of Lord Mayor, spent last summer telling reporters that he was in total shock with no answers as to why the killers who came from his ward did what they did.

Today, he says the city has become stronger in spite of the tragedy.

But dig into the communities and bleak stories about the bombers' legacy are only too plain - a legacy of fear and suspicion that will almost certainly have an effect for years to come.

So on the streets of Muslim communities, there are stories of youths and veiled women being racially abused in greater numbers than before 7 July. There are tales of men looking for jobs having a sneaky feeling that it's their name on the application form that may be holding them back.

Simmering

And there is paranoia: Far-right groups trying to mobilise against Islam, a mosque said to have witnessed a witch-hunt amid fears of being "infiltrated" by MI5 informants.

A previously successful parent-toddler group in the area near the bombers' homes once saw a healthy ethnic mix. According to community sources, it now rarely sees an Asian family.

And then there is the fear that it could happen again - kids lacking direction, the pernicious effect of drugs, educational under-achievement and a simmering row in the community over whether or not Muslims are in denial.

The fear on the streets, often unspoken, is that these kind of incidents, national factors such as anti-terrorism provisions, and an international sense of injustice, primarily over the Iraq war, contribute to a sense of anger and helplessness. And it is this anger that feeds the radical politics that is a step removed from even more extreme actions.

And so the picture appears bleak. But there are many people working to ensure that this is not the case.

Hanif Rehman: Muslim professionals leading the way

Largely thanks to the jolt of 7 July, Muslim communities may be on the verge of major social change. Young professionals, broadly British-born or educated, are pushing for positions of influence and power over the traditional religious leaders or clan-style elders.

Leading the charge, in a very modest and Islamic way, are women.

One well-placed Muslim source, who has been working with women to try to get them to take more active roles, told the BBC that years of frustration began coming to the surface in West Yorkshire after the bombings.

"When the men came knocking for money to build the mosque, the supposed centre of the community, these are the women who sold the wedding gold from their wrists, believing it was the right thing to do," said the source.

"The mosque has given them nothing. They've remained right at the bottom all of these years.

"At the moment we're all in denial," she said. "It's happened in our community; it still is happening."

Young professionals

Hanif Rehman has something to say about where leadership lies. He runs Muslim Professionals, a Dewsbury-based motivational organisation that seeks to help members of the community meet their potential in their business lives.

Hanif knew chief bomber Mohammad Sidique Khan as their social circles crossed and a year on says he still hasn't worked out what made the previously mild-mannered "sound guy" do it.

"I have long felt that things have got to move a lot faster for our community," he says. "And when I looked at my own community I saw that some talented people were not going as far as they should in Britain.

"One of my mentors is the Prophet, he is my real inspiration. But when I was 16, if I had also had someone physical to help guide me, that's different. When we are young, we want someone to say the things that need to be said - stay off the drugs and booze, work hard, train to be a doctor, and so on.

"Ideally we all need those kinds of mentors and the Muslim community is no different.

Community work

"We have to also look at the generational issue. There is new leadership coming up, building nationwide networks, 30-somethings pushing for change. They've got the professional qualifications and experience of British society that can make the difference."

Hanif's views are supported by others working on the ground. Ansaar, another Dewsbury-based organisation, tries to find productive ways to lead the youth down the right path.

Mosque in Leeds
The legacy of the bombings stays with Leeds Muslims

The small organisation relies on the tireless energy of its volunteers to run youth events, outward bound trips and fun days.

A women's event this year attracted 2,000 people and more volunteers have signed up in the wake of 7 July.

"Teenage years are very turbulent," says Wajid Khan, a psychologist and one of Ansaar's founders.

"If teenagers are feeling that turbulence, we want to help plug them in to the mainstream services there to help them.

"We don't have the resources to tackle all the issues, but we need to highlight them," says Wajid. "The problem I think we all agree on is getting statutory bodies to participate, from councils, to government, to the police.

"Most community programmes tend to last for a while. But there is no sustainability and they die out through lack of help from authorities. We have to change this if we are going to make a difference."

Dialogue

But despite this kind of good-works evangelism, there are widespread concerns that dialogue is getting harder between different peoples with simply not enough people on the ground working to make the connections, be they youth workers, faith leaders or other activists.

David Randolph-Horn: White communities must do more

The Reverend David Randolph-Horn of Leeds Church Institute was a key figure behind the moving multi-faith gathering in the city one week after the bombings. It saw thousands of people from different backgrounds share the same space in unity against terrorism.

Since then, he says he has been deeply impressed by an emerging generation of Muslim leaders who are part of the Leeds Faith Forum.

But he says that dialogue at grass-roots level "is beginning to get harder".

When the organisation recently held an event called "trust or terrorism", dozens of Muslim teenagers turned up - but none of their white counterparts, he says wistfully.

He has fears for some poorer white groups living close to multicultural communities.

"We may be seeing a tendency towards separatism. There is something going on in that area and I would urge the Home Office to target this."

The challenge, says Mr Randolph-Horn, is for communities to reach the point where they can frankly tell each other what makes them feel uneasy - and in doing so find that they actually become much closer.

"In a secular society, I don't think we know really know any more how to relate to each other as people who may have faith as an important part of our lives," he says.

"It's the minutiae that make the difference: The police officer who takes the time to understand Islam, the housing official who has to deal with people and their different cultural backgrounds.

"If we are not religiously literate, we can be part of the problem of misunderstanding."

But he asks: "Are we any further forward? The Muslims have shown that they recognise the need to look into their hearts. I'm not so sure that the rest of us are doing the same."




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