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 You are in: Feature
Angry young men
 

By Barnie Choudhury
Social affairs correspondent

Interview: The men didn't want to be filmed


Where Brixton went before it, Bradford has now become identified in the public mind with the image of riots.


We’re segregated ... whites live in a white area, Asians live in Asian areas ... we don't have links with the white youth. This is why there’s fear.
They happened in the Manningham district of the city in 1995. Then there were disturbances in Easter 2001. Finally, in July, the city erupted with the worst violence in a generation.

It is an association that leading representatives of all communities would like to remove. But, in the immediate future, it's unlikely to happen.

It is this focus, most recently following the publication of reports into the violence, that leads many residents to believe that they will never be allowed to forget their recent past.

Consequently there is a deep suspicion of the media, not least among the young men we were seeking to talk to about the aftermath of last summer's rioting.

Click here to watch an interview with the three youths

"We're not going to talk to you on camera," said one youth at the Bangladesh Porishad, an advice-cum-community centre just off Manningham Lane.

"You'll only use little bits that make us look like thugs."



Mosque: Fears of misunderstanding of faith
We explained that this wasn't the case. We simply wanted to know whether they felt accepted in today's Britain or whether they felt disillusioned.

Eventually, they accepted that we were interested in what they wanted to say. But they only agreed to speak to us if we did not film their faces.

The three young men were called Habib, Abu and Ali and were aged between 17 and 21.

The youngest is currently studying for four 'A' levels, putting a lie to the myth that Bangladeshis are not interested in education.

Before last summer's riots the trio said that they did not feel equal to white Britons. But, in their view, things had got worse since September 11th.

"There's media propaganda against Muslims, that Islam is the root of all problems," said Ali. "They say we are all terrorists and oppressing women."



Abu Bashir: "Youth demoralised"
During our conversation, each urged the majority community to ask why immigrants came to Britain in the first place.

"It was because of the shortage of labour," said Habib. "And people in this country didn't want to do the dirty jobs, so they bought people over."

Abu Bashir, the President of the Bangladesh Porishad, said that there is a significant level of disillusionment among young people in the city.

"They are demoralised," he said. "Nationally, most Bangladeshis live in inner city areas.

"The quality of education is extremely poor. As a result, they leave school without any formal qualifications. Many young people can't get a job, they lose their motivation. Everything starts from education."

How disillusion works

This disillusionment shows itself in a number of ways. Some young people stay at home and end up causing problems within the family.


I'm British-Muslim-Bangladeshi living in Bradford. I'd like to be loyal to Britain. I'm trying to succeed in life but not being given the chance.
Some, said Mr Bashir, get caught in the wrong crowd and involved with drugs and crime.

But he added that many, many others will try their best to participate by getting any job possible and make the best of their lives.

Despite the reports into the summer riots which highlighted disillusionment and segregation, the three young men we spoke said that there was another cause.

"The real reason is that a few ignorant white people, the BNP and National Front who class themselves as civilised, created the foundations of the riots and then left the picture," said Abu.

"They should just accept that we are here and we're going to stay here.

"We're part of Britain, we want to make it a better place. People don't think very high of us but we want to prove them wrong."

"We're segregated really," added Ali. "Whites live in a white area, Asians live in Asian areas and the main roots are housing problems and school problems.

"We don't have links with the white youth. This is why there's fear."

Seek understanding

Habib said that his community wanted others to have a greater understanding of Asian cultures and values.

"They should ask why a man wears a turban, why he has a beard, why a woman is dressed with her face covered. We can give them answers."

Politically, they feel let down by Prime Minister Tony Blair. While they have seen him meet Muslim community leaders, they believe that he has not done enough to tackle the problems they face.

For instance, the young men raised concerns over the UK's involvement in the war on terror following the attacks of 11 September.

The governments of the US and Britain have been at pains to stress that the war is not a war against Islam or ordinary Muslims, but against those who seek to twist the faith for violence against others.

But the three said that they empathised with Muslims on the other side of the world. If their religion could be attacked there, they reasoned, it could also happen in Britain.

So did they see themselves as more Muslim or more British?

"British-Muslim-Bangladeshi living in Bradford," said one. "I'd like to be loyal to Britain. I'm trying to succeed in life but not being given the chance."

These are young men who are extending that hand of friendship. They are willing to understand and be understood by others.

Three young men, a random sample, who see Bradford, rather than Bangladesh, as home and want to be part of its success.

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