Last Updated Wed, 03 Aug 2005 13:33:12 EDT
The number of hate crimes primarily affecting Muslims in the United Kingdom soared 600 per cent in the weeks after the London bombings on July 7, police say.
* INDEPTH: London Bombing
Crime statistics show there were 269 hate-motivated attacks in the three weeks following the bombings that killed 56 people. Similar crimes during the same period last year totalled 40.
Most cases were verbal or minor physical assaults targeting the Muslim community, although there was property damage and attacks on mosques, said Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Tarique Ghaffur.
"It can lead to these communities completely retreating and not engaging at a time when we want their engagement and support," Ghaffur said.
Britain's Home Office on Tuesday began meetings across the country with local leaders and Muslim communities to try to improve relations and address concerns of security, education and extremism.
* FROM AUG. 2, 2005: U.K. police told not to use racial profiling
There are an estimated 1.6 million Muslims in Britain.
A new shoot-to-kill police policy against would-be bombers that claimed the life of a Brazilian electrician in error has raised fears that racial profiling permeates police ranks.
Racism among a minority of white youths, whether tied to soccer hooliganism or race riots in dance clubs, has a history in Britain.
Three of the suicide bombers had family roots in Pakistan, while the fourth moved to Britain from Jamaica as a youngster. Several of the suspects in the botched July 21 attacks hailed from east Africa.
There's a concern in some quarters that violence against the Muslim community could see more of its members, especially young people, to embrace extremism.
A former mayor of Oldham, a northern industrial town near Manchester that was the site of race riots four years ago, said that moderate people must take the lead in reaching out to youth.
"We want to work together to get rid of this evil among us," said Riaz Ahmed, after meeting with Hazil Blears, a minister in the Home Office.
Another community activist supported the concept. "The right Muslims with the right thinking and the right mind need to get to the youngsters before the extremists do," Mohammed Miah said.
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