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EDITIONS
Tuesday, 11 December, 2001, 05:26 GMT
Oldham fears further clashes
Debris and people in the Glodwick streets after trouble on 27 May
Oldham was the scene of riots in May
The report into this summer's rioting in Oldham has blamed deep-rooted segregation in the town's communities as a major factor in provoking the unrest.

But while the Oldham Independent Review Panel Chairman David Ritchie promised that his report will be "hard-hitting and radical", some community leaders have voiced concern that the underlying problems are not being addressed.

Speaking ahead of the publication of the report, Tariq Rafique, of the British Pakistani Youth Forum, warned that Asians were already complaining of a failure to confront the "real issues" behind the worst riots in the area for 15 years.

Riot police face an angry crowd in Oldham
Worst riots for 15 years erupted in Oldham

"Fascist behaviour by some people in England is the real underlying problem," he said.

Mr Rafique blames the disturbances, which saw cars torched, houses attacked and pubs petrol-bombed, on the far-right British National Party (BNP) and the National Front (NF).

"The BNP were stirring up tension and the Asian youths' anger boiled over," he said.

"People were rioting because they were repressed in their own towns.

"For 12 to 13 weeks on the run, you could not go into your own town because you were afraid of being attacked."

At the time, BNP leader Nick Griffin said the riots were "absolutely inevitable" and recommended the building of Belfast-style peace lines.


The BNP were stirring up tension and the Asian youths' anger boiled over

Tariq Rafique
British Pakistani Youth Forum

But Mr Rafique said: "We do not accept that.

"We need to stop these fascist organisations coming into multi-ethnic towns stirring up hatred and causing trouble."

Mr Rafique also warned that further clashes might be unavoidable if the BNP "jump onto the anti-Islamic bandwagon" during their campaign for the May 2002 local government elections.

Abdul Malik Ahad, of Oldham Community Partnership, also believes "tensions will be stoked up as the elections occur".

But he told BBC News Online: "There is a big coalition against racism and we are doing a lot of groundwork to stop the BNP."

Mr Ahad hopes Tuesday's report will be a "wake-up call for everyone".

But he added: "People are afraid it will just be another report that the authorities, like the police and council, will use to hide their inadequacies.

'Cautiously optimistic'

"There is an element of cynicism among some people because the initial Oldham local authority and police report was one-sided," Mr Ahad continued.

"We lobbied for a proper judicial inquiry from the home secretary after the riots, we even went to parliament - but our requests were turned down," he said.

It was hoped Tuesday's report would contain "concrete proposals" for investment in the town's Coldhurst and Glodwick areas, Mr Ahad said.

"But even though I am cautiously optimistic, I am not jumping up and down thinking it will solve all our problems.

"It is not an issue of pumping in money but the management of the money and involving the community in deciding how to spend the money properly," Mr Ahad stressed.


There is still a long way to go before people will be able to have faith and trust in each other in Oldham

Abdul Malik Ahad
Oldham Community Partnership

"The vast majority of people feel Oldhamers have a total failure of leadership from local authorities and local MPs," he said.

"They were nowhere to be seen before and leading up to the riots.

"When the BNP was heavily leafleting the deprived white areas, it said money was only going to Asian areas - but there was no attempt to challenge the misinformation or allay the fears of the whites."

Mr Ahad added that his own family had had their front door kicked down by "hooligans" who "taunted us with racial slurs".

"The police did not try to protect us," he added.

"There is still a long way to go before people will be able to have faith and trust in each other in Oldham," Mr Ahad concluded.

Find out more about the violence in northern England during the summer of 2001


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