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Last Updated: Friday, 12 September, 2003, 16:00 GMT 17:00 UK
Race tensions rise in Glasgow community
By Bob Wylie
BBC Scotland investigations correspondent

Street scene
There are calls for community meetings
Leaders of Scotland's largest Asian community have claimed that people are afraid to walk the streets at night due to simmering racial tensions.

Last weekend, the son of a local religious leader was severely beaten in the Pollokshields area of Glasgow while on his way to evening prayers.

Akbar Akhtar was attacked by a gang of white youths wielding baseball bats.

The attack has been followed by suspected tit-for-tat firebombings of local businesses.

Glasgow Govan MP Mohammad Sarwar is calling for all sides of the community to come together before things get out of hand.

One guy started punching him on the face, the other guy came with a baseball bat and he hit him on the back of the head and after that Akbar fell down
Amwar Akhtar
On Saturday evening there were reports of clashes between white youths and a gang of Asian youths in Albert Drive, Pollokshields.

The white youths dispersed after the police were called, but a group of four or five moved to Kenmure Street where a young man, his father and two family members were attacked on their way to the mosque.

Akbar Akhtar, 23, is still shaken by the assault.

"I was going with my dad to the mosque and two guys came to the front bonnet of the car and they kicked the screen," he said.

'Knives and bottles'

His brother Amwar said Akbar was seized when he got out of the car.

"They had knives, they had baseball bats and they had glass bottles," said Mr Akhtar.

"One guy started punching him on the face, the other guy came with a baseball bat and he hit him on the back of the head and after that Akbar fell down."

We are saying that there is a serious problem amongst the gangs and that has to be sorted out for the innocent people
Hanif Rajah
Community leader
Early on Sunday morning an Asian grocer's shop was burned out.

Hanif Rajah, a Pakistani community leader in Pollokshields, said people were now scared to come out of their houses.

"Something has to be done about this," said Mr Rajah.

"The Asian youths are as bad as the white youths, we are not blaming only the white youths.

"We are saying that there is a serious problem amongst the gangs and that has to be sorted out for the innocent people."

At the nearby Tramway Theatre two Asian men were run down when a car mounted the pavement and drove into them last Monday.

Police believe two of the men in the car were also Asian, raising the prospect of a drugs turf war rather than a racially motivated attack.

Businesses have been caught up in the trouble
Strathclyde Police Superintendent Paul Godley believes the incident shows that talk of race conflict is misplaced.

"It's a youth disorder problem which occasionally will develop into a race situation where some white youths might attack some Asian youths or vice versa," he said.

"But I don't believe we have a major race problem."

However, the area has seen a second firebombing incident this week.

Local activist Peter Paton said it was a very serious attack on a businessman's property.

"My information is that this was a direct reprisal to a similar firebombing incident of an Asian property a few days ago," said Mr Paton.

Call for talks

"This is a very serious situation that is getting out of hand here."

MP Mohammed Sarwar is calling for an emergency meeting to involving all sides of the community.

"I have spoken to senior police officials over the past few days and have discussed issues with community leaders and they are all determined not to let this get out of control," he said.

The people of Pollokshields are now waiting to see if events will calm down as another weekend beckons.




WATCH AND LISTEN
BBC Scotland's Bob Wylie
"It may be time for politicians to look at youth facilities"



SEE ALSO:
Legal pledge on race crime
12 Mar 03  |  Scotland
Scale of race problem revealed
10 Oct 02  |  Scotland
Racist crimes jump in Scotland
03 May 02  |  Scotland


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