Muslims facing bombing backlash
LONDON – More than 100 revenge attacks – including the alleged beating death of a Pakistani immigrant – have been reported across Britain since the London bombings. On Wednesday, Prime Minister Tony Blair urged Britons not to judge all Muslims by the acts of those inspired by a “perverted and poisonous misinterpretation” of Islam.
Blame for the July 7 bus and subway attacks, which killed at least 52 people and wounded 700, immediately fell on Muslims, with many suspecting al Qaeda. Fears of reprisals grew in Britain’s Pakistani community with news Tuesday that three of four suspects were young men of Pakistani origin.
Muslims spoke out about the need to shield their children from the radical thinking believed to have led to the first suicide bombings in Western Europe. Police have increased security in Muslim areas.
Moazamm Begg, who spent two years in a U.S. prison camp after being accused of being an al Qaeda operative, said Wednesday that many Muslims, particularly those with Pakistani roots, were thinking of leaving Britain.
“Muslims in Britain are feeling huge repercussions from the attacks,” he said.
According to the Muslim Council, a man of Pakistani origin was reportedly beaten to death Sunday in Nottingham. In Kent, the council said, an 18-year-old student from the United Arab Emirates had his jaw broken by a teenager who hurled a glass bottle at him after a brawl. Police have not confirmed the reports.
In Croydon, an area south of London, a man pushed a petrol-soaked rag through the letter box of a Muslim house, police said. A mosque in Camden, outside London, has received several bomb threats. In Hackney, another town outside London, the homes of two Muslims were stoned.
Anti-Muslim graffiti has been scrawled on mosques and other buildings.
Britain has a strong Muslim presence – as much as 20 percent in some places – and has long tolerated more freedom of religious expression than other European countries.
Analysts believe a clutch of fundamentalist Islamic preachers across Britain have helped radicalize pockets of disaffected Muslim youths, but many also point to resentment against Britain for joining the U.S. coalition in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Many in the tight-knit Pakistani community in the northern city of Leeds, about 185 miles from London where the four bombers are believed to have grown up, spoke out Wednesday against the attacks, saying the young bombers had been corrupted.
“They were from a good family and they were not troubling neighbors. We’re worried about our children’s future now – people might use them,” a 27-year-old woman said of the alleged bombers. Like many Muslims in Leeds, she refused to give her name for fear of a backlash against the neighborhood or friends and family of the suspects.
Shahid Malik, one of four Labour Party lawmakers who met with Blair on Wednesday, called on the Muslim community to confront radicals trying to recruit Britain’s youth.
“Condemnation is not enough and British Muslims must, and I believe are prepared to, confront the voices of evil head on,” Malik told Parliament.
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