UK Muslims after bombings

One year after the grisly attacks on London's transport system, Muslims living in this rundown northern English suburb still feel shunned a year after two men from their community blew themselves up on London's transport system.

UK Muslims after bombings

Hardly anyone stops by the shops dotted among the rows of uniform red-brick terraced houses in this predominantly south Asian neighborhood of Leeds, Reuters reported.

"Business in the area has been severely affected," said a furniture shop owner in Beeston, who complained of a subtle economic boycott since the bombings because he is Muslim.

"What I used to earn in a week before July 7 now takes a month," he said. "They have associated us with the bombers."

Spotless new furniture accumulated over the past 12 months clutters his shop, but no buyers have come.

"There is no doubt there has been an effect on businesses owned by Muslims in the area. There will be some politics in boycotting the shops by some people," said Arshad Chaudhry, chairman of the Leeds Muslim Forum.

Four British-born Muslims detonated bombs in their rucksacks in coordinated attacks on London's buses and underground trains in July 2005, killing 52 people.

Two of the bombers — Mohammad Sidique Khan and Shehzad Tanweer — both lived in Beeston, while Hasib Hussain lived in a different area of Leeds. The fourth bomber, Jermaine Lindsay, lived northwest of London.

British Muslims, estimated at some 1.8 million or nearly three percent of the population, had denounced the grisly attacks, saying there was no justification whatsoever to take innocent lives.

A multi-faith prayer service, the first of its kind in British history, was held on Wednesday, July 5, in London's Westminster Abbey, to mark the first anniversary of the 7/7 terrorist London attacks.

Verbal Harassment

Sardar Mahmood, a 25-year old Muslim resident in Beeston, recalls some of the comments he received at work.

"Some of my English colleagues would jokingly say, 'I hope you're not going to blow us up,'" he told Reuters.

Mahmood, who works as a supervisor at a printer's factory, said he and others like him did not believe the bombings last July were Islamic.

"The 10 to 15 lads here [at the mosque] my age -- we would never do something like that," Mahmood told Reuters.

"One of the biggest sins in Islam is committing suicide and killing innocent civilians for no reason. Only Allah knows what these guys were doing."

A survey for The Times newspaper showed on Tuesday, July 4, that a sweeping majority of British Muslims believe there were no circumstances that would justify suicide bombings in Britain and that they would feel shame to learn that a close family member had joined Al-Qaeda.

Foreign Policy

The issues cited by many British Muslims as the sources of alienation are still key talking points a year after the attacks.

"From the mehfils (Islamic gatherings) I have been to, I have heard a lot of lads do still talk about these issues — Muslims in Kashmir, Afghanistan and Iraq being killed," said Mahmood.

"They ask why the Americans are still in Iraq, even after they removed Saddam?"

Many in the community blamed UK foreign policy in Iraq for the bombings, which they say were also fuelled by the long-standing alienation of Muslims from society. The cloud of suspicion has yet to lift.

According to extracts of a secret briefing document to police published by The Guardian on Friday, the US-led war in Iraq has had a "huge impact" on motivating Muslims planning acts of violence in Britain.

The newspaper, which said it had seen the report to senior officers at London's Metropolitan Police, said that British policy over Iraq and the Israel-Palestinian conflict is used by terrorists to justify their actions.

The document echoes the conclusions of an official report published last November that British foreign policy, especially in the Middle East, was a "key contributory factor" in radicalizing some British Muslims.

One of the suicide bombers who attacked London exactly a year ago also said in a video released Thursday that there would be no let-up in violence unless Britain pulled its troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair has consistently refused to acknowledge a link between extremism and his government's foreign policy.

"Most Friendly"

Councillor Mark Harris, leader of Leeds City Council, said he was aware some people in Beeston felt the area had suffered as a result of the bombings but did not believe that was representative of the Beeston or Leeds community.

"Certainly the council in particular and all the community and the faith groups in the city have made strenuous attempts from the very outset to make it clear what happened last July is ... in no way representative of the Leeds or Beeston community," he said.

Many people in Leeds generally have a low opinion of Beeston, but for others like Ed Carlisle, it's a relatively integrated community.

Carlisle lives on a street only meters away from the mosque beside people from the Congo, South Africa, Malawi, Taiwan, India and Bangladesh.

"I live on what I genuinely consider to be the most friendly street I've ever lived on — that's not propaganda, it's my lived experience," said Carlisle.

"It's just a row of red-brick back-to-backs just behind the Hamara centre in Beeston Hill — the street is amazing, and everyone talks to each other."

Last Mod: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16
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