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Sunday, July 08, 2007

In wake of botched terror plot, Scottish Muslims fear retaliation

In the row of shops, a Pakistani immigrant owns the only one that was targeted. Shafiq Ahmed says vandals rammed a car into his "One Stop Shop" and set it on fire — an assault disturbingly reminiscent of the terror attack just days earlier on the airport of this gritty but until now racially well-integrated Scottish city.

Police say there has been a backlash against Glasgow's Muslims in the wake of the attempted airport bombing, with at least 24 attacks, ranging from graffiti on a mosque to firebombings of businesses.

Soaping off soot with his family in his charred convenience store, Ahmed is hoping that the attack on his family business wasn't racially motivated. After 30 peaceful years in Scotland, the idea that some may no longer welcome him and his Scottish-born children is simply too uncomfortable.

"I haven't got words to describe it. I'm hoping it's not retaliation," Ahmed said Sunday, in a thick Glasgow accent. "It's a shame to think you can't work with people and enjoy the company of people and instead have to worry."

British police are still threading together the terror plot investigation, reaching out to India, Australia, Jordan, Iraq and to communities here in Scotland where Muslims and non-Muslims have long lived in peace together — and where the majority are determined to keep it that way.....

In Glasgow, some Muslims fear that they will now face the same unwelcome scrutiny, even alienation and violence, that others across the border in England have complained of since four British-born Muslims blew themselves up on trains and a bus in London on July 7, 2005, killing 52 people and injuring more than 700.

Senior officials have since urged Muslims to better integrate. Jack Straw, the justice secretary and lord chancellor in the new government of Prime Minister Gordon Brown, spoke out in October against the head-to-toe black veils worn by some Muslim women.

"After 7/7 it was not that bad for Muslims here," said Imran Ali, a 22-year-old in Pollokshields, the most populous Muslim district of Glasgow. "It's going to be worse now."

John Neilson, one of Glasgow's most senior police officers, told The Associated Press that they have made 25 arrests in the 24 attacks they suspect were revenge for the airport assault. But he also pointed out that for every attack, there were hundreds more expressions of support for Scotland's 60,000 Muslims. [Link]

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