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Last Updated: Thursday, 2 August 2007, 11:40 GMT 12:40 UK
Race crime up after terror attack
Stephen Stewart
BBC Scotland news website

The aftermath of the airport attack
Police said racist behaviour would not be tolerated after the attack

Racist crime in the west of Scotland had increased after the suspected terror attack on Glasgow Airport, BBC Scotland has learned.

Strathclyde Police have released figures on racist crime and a senior officer confirmed that there had been a noticeable rise.

Community and political leaders were quick to call for calm in the aftermath of the attack.

The force said the rise may have been down to a greater willingness for minorities to report incidents.

Between 1 and 27 July, there were 258 reported racial attacks, 31 of which were airport-related, according to Strathclyde Police.

Previously, the force had been dealing with around 200 such incidents a month.

Speaking to the BBC Scotland news website, Chief Inspector Val Thomson of Strathclyde Police's diversity unit, said there had been a definite increase in attacks after the Glasgow Airport incident.

We are not sure whether this means there has been an actual rise in this kind of crime or whether there has been a rise in the number of incidents reported
Chief Inspector Val Thomson
Strathclyde Police

She said: "We have seen quite an increase in the number of racist crimes since last month.

"Most of it has been low level crime such as name calling.

"On some days there have been less than 10 incidents and on other days there have been more than 10.

"We are not sure whether this means there has been an actual rise in this kind of crime or whether there has been a rise in the number of incidents reported.

"Senior officers have given a number of reassurances to the Muslim community that they must come forward to report all incidents so that we can build a fuller picture."

Muslim community

Figures were not available for the whole of Scotland but Tayside Police logged 40 racist crimes, six of which were directly attributed to the airport attack and included name calling and graffiti.

A spokesman for the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland said: "We are aware that there was a slight rise in racist incidents in some force areas after the events of June 30 at Glasgow Airport.

"This appears to have levelled off."

He added: "Any incidents which are racially motivated will be dealt with robustly and with the full force of the law."

After the attack, many websites and discussion forums, including one hosted by a national newspaper, attracted a number of racist and anti-Islamic comments.

Mohammad Sarwar, Scotland's only Muslim MP, has also said that threats have been made towards members of the Muslim community following the airport attack on 30 June.

He said that he had received calls from people who had been threatened or targeted by abusive graffiti.

A fire was also investigated in Bathgate amid fears that a nearby mosque was the target of a revenge attack.

'Build bridges'

It was thought a "petrol bomb-like missile", which hit an estate agent on South Bridge Street, may have been aimed at a mosque.

In the aftermath, police officers were keen to emphasise that the suspects arrested at the airport were not from Scotland's Muslim community.

However, there were concerns that the country's Asian community would face a backlash.

At the time, Assistant Chief Constable John Neilson, the head of community safety at Strathclyde Police, said: "We will deal robustly with offenders who engage in racist behaviour."

Osama Saeed of the Muslim Association of Britain, said that "the people of Scotland as a whole reacted with common sense after the attack".

He added: "But we still need to build bridges and ensure that those responsible (for the attacks) are punished."


VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
There are many incidences of racism on internet forums



SEE ALSO
Call for unity after Muslim talks
31 Jul 07 |  Scotland
Events to thank attack response
28 Jul 07 |  Scotland
Fire chief denies airport claims
27 Jul 07 |  Glasgow and West

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