Fear lingers for Muslims relieved that suspects are not British

Charlene Sweeney reports for The Times on fears of an anti-Muslim backlash in Scotland.

Fear lingers for Muslims relieved that suspects are not British

By Charlene Sweeney

The Times, 3 July 2007

On the streets of the Pollokshields suburb of Glasgow, home to Scotland’s largest Muslim population, there was a palpable sense of relief yesterday that the suspects being held in police custody for the terror attacks at Glasgow Airport and London were foreign nationals.

But there was also a lingering fear that the community would suffer reprisals simply for having brown skins.

Robina Chaudry, 39, a retail assistant who lives in the area, said: “I saw the bombings on TV and I feel really upset by it. White people looked down on Asians after the London bombings and I worry it will happen again. My kids go on the Underground every day and I fear for their safety.”

One retired man, who did not wish to be named, said that he had not heard of any backlash so far, but cautioned that the attacks could be used as an excuse for racism. “If these terrorists had been born or brought up in Scotland it might be different, but they don’t belong to our Asian community,” he said. “I think people will be tolerant – the Scots are in general – but there are fanatics in every society.”

Zeeshan Muhammed, 17, a pupil at Shawlands Academy who last month attended the country’s first Young Scottish Muslims conference, said that relations between Asians and other communities were in general good. However he admitted that last week’s terror threats could “change things”.

He said that he has already been the subject of taunts because of his faith.

“At school sometimes when I wear a [Muslim] cap they say, ‘Oh look, here’s Osama coming.’ Some are joking but others are serious.”

Across the wider Scottish Muslim community, faith leaders who feared racial tensions were encouraged by the news that the suspects were not British.

Bashir Maan, Scottish representative for the Muslim Council of Britain, said: “The community was very tense to begin with but since the new developments, that the attackers were foreign nationals, there is some relief – and also some hope – that things will not get as bad.”

But Osama Saeed, Scottish spokesman for the Muslim Association of Britain, argued that the backlash that followed the 9/11 atrocity in New York and the 7/7 suicide bombings in London was also possible in Scotland.

“Muslims are victims of these atrocities too and what makes it even more galling is that we’re also at the centre of a storm where everyone is pointing the finger of suspicion at us,” he said.