Prescott Backs Right to Wear Veil

Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott has defended the right of Muslim women to wear veils which cover their faces. It comes after House of Commons leader Jack Straw sparked a row by saying he asked Muslim women to take off their veils at his constituency surgery. Mr Prescott told the BBC he would not ask a woman to remove her veil, adding: “If a woman wants to wear a veil, why shouldn’t she? It’s her choice.”

Muslims Worst Sufferers Of London Bombings

LONDON: Almost a third of Londoners overall but nearly two-thirds of Muslims suffered substantial stress following the 7 July bombings in the city, researchers say, reports BBC. Muslims may have suffered more because of fears of reprisals, they said. The British Medical Journal study also found that 32% of the 1,010 questioned were to reduce use of public transport. But researchers said the study – carried out before the 21 July attacks – showed the bombers had not created a city too stressed to get on with life. The research was carried out by London”s Kings and University Colleges and the Health Protection Agency. Fifty-two passengers were killed when four suicide bombers attacked three Tube trains and a bus on July 7. The interviews for the study took place from Monday 18 to Wednesday 20 July – before the failed bombings on London”s transport network on 21 July. Nearly one in three (31%) of participants reported having suffered substantial stress, and 32% reported they would reduce the amount they used the Tube, trains, buses, or go into central London. Some 46% of those surveyed said they did not feel safe travelling by Tube, and 33% did not feel safe in central London. People who had difficulty contacting others by mobile phone on the day of the attacks were more likely to have suffered from stress, as were those who feared a loved one may have been injured or killed. Overall, people with a strong religious conviction were more likely to report feelings of stress. Being white and having previous experience of atrocities – such as IRA bomb attacks in London – was associated with reduced stress. Only 12 participants (1%) felt that they needed professional help to deal with their emotions, whereas 71% had spoken to friends or relatives. The researchers said this suggested that most people were able to rely on lay support networks. Researcher Dr Neil Greenberg said: “It is quite a good thing that people should try to make sense of what happened by talking it through with those who understand them the best. “Our findings show that we are resilient, and suggest that if the aim of the bombers was to create a city full of people so stressed that they could not get on their lives then they certainly failed.” Dr Greenberg said Muslims might have been more vulnerable to stress because of concern about the consequences of the bombings, such as possible reprisals from those who blamed the Islamic community in general. Dr Monica Thompson, from the Trauma Stress Clinic, in London, agreed that most people seemed to have coped well with the bombings. But she said people who were either directly caught up in the attacks, or witnessed the results first hand were much more likely to suffer from stress. Dr Thompson”s clinic has so far received 26 referrals of patients exhibiting signs of post-traumatic stress disorder.

British Asians In Identity Crisis, Post 9/11

By AMIT ROY London: A growing number of young people of Pakistani and Bangladeshi origin have been so traumatised by the aftermath of 9/11 that they now prefer to identify themselves as “British Muslims” rather than as “British Asian”, a provocative BBC radio documentary claimed on Tuesday night. The programme on BBC Radio 4, Don’t Call Me Asian, was presented by journalist Sarfraz Manzoor, who began by admitting: “A few years ago I, too, would have described myself as a British Asian. But these days I am just as likely to say that I am a British Muslim.” He explained: “I remember that the reason I used Asian was because it offered less ammunition to racists than saying or admitting I was Pakistani.” In his quest to prove that others have also rejected the term “British Asian” and now want to be defined exclusively by their religion, Manzoor interviewed a number of young people. One man of Pakistani origin insisted: “I think the word Asian is dead. Recent events globally and for me personally have made me re-examine what my identity is and hence I call myself British Muslim. Previously I would call myself Asian or Pakistani.” When Manzoor interviewed young Hindus who apparently no longer want to be called British Asian, an Indian girl commented: “Initially, if I had to fill out a form I would say British Asian. Events like September 11 have shaken us all up and we don’t wish to be under that banner of Asian any more.” A young Bangladeshi woman at university revealed that she self-consciously tried out a hijab at home and then started wearing it outside. “I became more conscious of who I was and what I did and how that affected every area of my life,” she said. Aftab Hussain, who works for a theatre company, found himself quizzed by his non-Muslim friends, “Why does Islam say this or that?” He eventually found himself “having to go away and learn about my religion. It has made young people more proactive about being Muslim”. Mohammed Mamdani, the founder of Muslim Youth Helpline, told Manzoor: “Many young Muslims are in a very fearful state where they don’t know how they fit into a society which constantly refers to their religion in terms of terrorism or radicalisation. This is also propagating the marginalisation and alienation of young Muslims”. According to Tariq Madood, professor of sociology at Bristol University, media portrayal of young Muslims hasn’t helped. “If there are disturbances at Bradford and the BBC is describing them as ‘Asian youths’, Hindus and Sikhs will get up and say, ‘Well, actually, what is the point of calling them Asian youths when they are Pakistani Muslims?’ ” Madood went on: “People want to be more assertive of the identities that they themselves choose to prioritise and this is partly because they want to promote their own good image and partly to disassociate themselves from what they see as the bad images with which they are being confused.” Manzoor interviewed young people attending the annual conference of the National Hindu Federation in London, where a young woman told him that she was travelling on the underground when “I was asked by a young white male whether I was Muslim and whether my people were responsible for September 11. And I said, I am not Muslim and my people weren’t responsible for September 11. So going on from there I do want my own identity now”. But a more representative sample of young Asians, taken, say, at a music concert, would probably find only one out of 100 keen to be defined purely in religious terms. At Oldham College in a city rocked by riots over three years ago, a youth of Pakistani origin argued: “We are Asian and that’s what we are. I call myself British Asian.” Manzoor interviewed the academic Lord Bhikhu Parekh, who disapproved of the tendency for people to define themselves only as Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs. “The tendency of a community to define itself entirely in religious terms and to collapse its complete complex identity – political, cultural and others – into a single, one-dimensional religious identity is a very worrying phenomenon,” he said. “No individual is simply a Muslim. He is also a Pakistani or an Indian, he is also a male, he is also a professor, and then for him to say, ‘All those things don’t matter at all, the only thing that matters about me is that I am a Muslim,’ is in itself worrying. That leads to a great impoverishment of an individual’s capacity to understand himself or herself.” “If somebody were to say to me he defines himself as a Muslim and therefore he sees me as a Hindu, I would feel he was not only impoverishing himself but he was doing a lot of harm by abridging my identity. It then becomes difficult to operate in a relatively secular society,” Parekh added.

Vote To Block The Far Right, Muslims Urged Vote to block the far right, Muslims urged

By Emily Pennink Muslims are being urged to use their votes in the local and European elections to stop the threat from the far right, it was reported today. The Muslim Council of Britain has penned an open letter warning of BNP success in the event of a low turnout on June 10, the BBC says. The group claims a party political broadcast by the BNP last week was threatening and anti-Muslim, although the BNP insists it is not a threat to the Muslim community. The council said the BNP would need less than 10% of the vote to win a seat on the Greater London Authority or in the European Parliament – successes which would entitle it to public funding. “The rise of the far-right parties poses a dangerous threat to our communities,” the letter says.

Commuters Describe Madrid Blast Chaos

Commuters in Madrid have described the terror and chaos as a series of blasts ripped through trains in the Spanish capital. The morning rush hour came to a standstill as emergency services dealt with scores of people killed and more than 1,400 injured in the blasts. “There were pieces of train in the street and dead people trapped in the twisted iron,” one resident told BBC News Online. The ambulances continued to arrive many hours later Ken Seal, who lives near Atocha station, told our website. There was a very big blast in the trains and everything that happened after that has been very confused ?Ignacio, Madrid, Spain Atocha, one of Madrid’s major stations in the centre of the city, was the scene of the main attack. “All hell broke loose, hundreds of police cars and helicopters everywhere.. and an endless procession of ambulances that continue to arrive at the scene even now as I type nine hours later,” Mr Seal said. Buildings shaken One man, whose house is next to the railway line, told BBC News Online what happened: “The second blast woke me up. My bed and the whole building moved and there was a huge sound. When I opened the window there was a smell of burning plastic and clouds of smoke,” he said. “When I went down the street I saw the train – six carriages with three big holes – some people were walking down the rails and many dead and injured were lying on the ground,” he added. You could hear people screaming, on the platform there were dead and injured, people were running covered in blood. “I saw many things explode in the air, I don’t know, it was horrible,” said civil servant Juani Fernandez, 50, on the platform at Atocha station when the blasts happened. “People started to scream and run, some bumping into each other and as we ran there was another explosion. “I saw people with blood pouring from them, people on the ground,” he told the Associated Press news agency. Mounting panic Student Isabel Vega, still visibly shaken by the experience, told Spanish media: “It has been chaotic, horrific. “You could hear people screaming, on the platform there were dead and injured, people were running covered in blood.” Francisco Torres, from Madrid, told BBC News Online he was travelling in a train about 50 metres from one of the blasts at Atocha station and could feel the carriage shake. “People got off quickly but I still feel we all kept calm. It was only one minute later that two more bombs exploded in rapid succession. “It was at this point that people rushed out of the station. People crying. It was shocking.” Emergency worker Oscar Romero said the devastation was the worst he had seen in his job. “There were people destroyed, blown up, without legs,” he said. “There were two cars in pieces with bodies underneath.”

French Senate Approves Hijab Bill By Majority

PARIS: The French Senate approved by a large majority a bill banning hijab and other religious insignia in state schools on Wednesday, March 3. The proposal was adopted with 276 in favor and 20 against, despite the recent mass protests by the five-million-estimated Muslims and human rights at home and the appeal of some countries against the ban, BBC reported. French President Jacques Chirac has 15 days to sign into law the bill – adopted by the lower house last month by overwhelming majority, according to the BBC. Chirac said in a televised speech in December 2003 that the “Islamic veil” whatever name we give it – the kappa and a cross that is of plainly excessive dimensions” have no place in the precincts of state schools. ‘Powerful Signal’ French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin told senators before the vote that the law did not aim to discriminate against religions but to ”send a powerful and quick signal”. Raffarin insisted the law was needed to contain the spread of what he called ”Muslim fundamentalism” and ensure that the principle of secularism on which France is based remains intact.