Imam of Newbury mosque was abused and attacked

An Islamic spiritual teacher was routinely racially abused and attacked by youths in Newbury, West Berkshire Youth Court heard last Monday.

In the dock was a 15-year-old from Newbury who denied his part in one of the incidents but was convicted following a trial.

Presiding magistrate Peter George told him that the victim, 28-year-old Olid Khandokar, the Imam or spiritual leader of Newbury mosque, was a “thoughtful, quiet and mild man” who was “so intimidated just being in your line of sight” that he needed to give evidence behind screens.

Mr Khandokar explained how he came to Newbury in 2007 to lead prayers at the mosque and to give Arabic lessons to local children. He said he had been repeatedly singled out by jeering youths who hurled foul abuse and even attacked him with stones as he walked in the town centre.

Lesley Gilmore, prosecuting, said that the boy, who can not be identified for legal reasons, was with another youth who had used racially abusive language towards the Imam.

On being arrested, the youth initially admitted his part in the incident in question but later denied it.

Giving evidence, the boy claimed he had simply told arresting officer Sergeant Simon Briggs what he “wanted to hear” – despite having an appropriate adult with him and being reminded of the importance of telling the truth.

He was convicted of using racially aggravated abusive, threatening or insulting words or behaviour in Newbury town centre on April 20 last year.

A second youth has already been sentenced for his part in the same incident.

In a victim impact statement, Mr Khandokar said he had been frightened to venture out since, that he suffered from insomnia as a result and was barely able to carry out his religious duties.

Sentencing the boy to a three-month order in which he must carry out 10 hours’ reparation, Mr George said: “If the victim is willing, we think it it’s very important for you to say sorry to his face and it might help both of you.”

He pointed out that the boy, who has no previous convictions, had apparently been able to empathise with Mr Khandokar’s plight before changing his story.

In August last year the Newbury Weekly News highlighted Mr Khandokar’s misery. Speaking of other incidents, he said at the time: “I have been chased by people who want to provoke a physical confrontation. One day they took my bike and demanded money. I try to ignore it, smile and don’t look back.”

Police vowed at the time to protect Mr Khandokar and to arrest the culprits.

Newbury Today, 16 February 2010