UK averted anti-Muslim backlash after bombs - EU

  • World
  • Wednesday, 09 Nov 2005

By Marie-Louise Moller

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Coordinated action by the British government, police and minority leaders averted a violent backlash against Muslims after the July 7 London bombings, the EU's racism watchdog says in a new report. 

The report, to be presented in Brussels on Thursday, said hate crimes against Muslims across the 25-nation European Union after the attacks on London's transport system were "sporadic and isolated". 

Britain did experience a six-fold increase in racist crimes against Muslims in the aftermath of the suicide attacks by four British Muslims which killed 52 commuters, and of failed attacks two weeks later, according to police data published in August. 

But the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC) said the backlash appeared to have been short-lived. 

"The report confirms that in the immediate period after the attacks there was a temporary and disturbing increase in faith-related hate crimes across the UK," EUMC Director Beate Winkler wrote in a foreword to the report, seen by Reuters. 

"But the longer-term perspective is more hopeful: the strong stand taken by political and community leaders in condemning the attacks and defending the legitimate rights of Muslims saw a swift reduction in such incidents," Winkler said. 

"The lesson of July 7 is that strong, coordinated action by all stakeholders works effectively." 

Britain is home to 1.6 million Muslims, just under 3 percent of the population. The vast majority have their roots in South Asia. 

Among factors that helped limit hate crimes in Britain were the government's support for the Muslim community and the police's making it clear attacks on Muslims would not be tolerated, the EUMC said. 

The Vienna-based agency also highlighted the role played by British Muslim organisations, which voiced strong condemnation of the attacks and a determination to oppose terrorism. 

The London attacks appeared to have prompted new or reinforced initiatives to reach out to Muslim minorities across the EU, the report said. 

"As a result of the strong stand by political and community leaders, there was a largely positive response from the media across the EU which avoided making generalisations and stressed the importance of distinguishing between the act of a few individuals and the community in general," she said. 

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