DIANA GOLLOP talked to children and young people from the Muslim Cultural and Welfare Association of Sutton to find out what life has been like for them since the London bombings.
In the three weeks after the London bombings on 7 July, the Metropolitan Police revealed that the number of reported religious hate crimes had soared to 269 compared with 40 in the same period the previous year. Meanwhile, the Home Office mooted the idea of “rebranding” ethnic minorities using terms such as Asian-British or Indian-British in the hope of creating greater patriotism. So how have the bombings affected young Muslims? Have they experienced a change in the way people relate to them, and how would they describe their own identity?
Things are a bit different. People stare at you openly in the street, sometimes for a long time, which is scary – maybe they think you might do something. I try to be calm and ignore them but it makes me angry. I wish all of this would stop – I blame Bush, we should all protest against him. I was born in Pakistan and I definitely see myself as a Muslim first and then as a British person but I don’t see why I should have to apologise for who I am. I haven’t done anything wrong. Why do people blame us for what happened? Maybe it would help if white people learned more about Islaam.
Habiba is 14
They stare at you in the street, which is upsetting. Life is more difficult, I think. They don’t understand why we dress the way we do. It’s fine at school though. Being a Muslim is very important to me but I feel a part of the community here too. Other people are blaming us for what happened, but the bombers didn’t really have anything to do with our religion.
Sarah is 10
I went to Bangladesh for six weeks and while we were away, just after 7 July, our house was egged. I haven’t had anything bad happen to me directly but at school an Asian boy left his bag in class and some boys pretended to be scared and were winding him up – that was racial abuse, I think. I was as shocked as anyone by the bombing, but a few bad people can give us all a bad name.
Farhad is 14
I’m from the Caribbean, but people assume you’re Asian because of the way you look. I still feel safe and I haven’t had any bad experiences myself. It is good that the government is trying to move forward but I think it’s a shame that it has taken a disaster to make the Muslim community speak out. Some people are taking parts of the Koran out of context and that can be dangerous – the Muslim community needs to be aware of that.
Zeshan is 15
I’m not scared, but then I wear casual clothes. I think you might get more trouble if you wore traditional dress. I go to a Catholic school but they treat us right. I think Muslims need to be a bit careful and aware – when we went on holiday recently my mum told me to take a drawstring bag because people might feel threatened if I had a rucksack. We need to understand people’s fears and not give them a reason to think badly about us.
Yakir is 14