South Asians react to UK arrests
LONDON: “It’s about time they stopped laying the blame for terrorism at our door,” said Anu, strolling out of a specialist grocery store, shelves packed with spices and vegetables, into the west London sunshine.
Referring to Tuesday’s arrest of 13 suspected terrorist suspects, all reportedly of south Asian origin, retired teacher Anu was unhappy that ethnic minorities have once again been thrust into the glare of the media spotlight. “We are talking about the arrests of a few individuals among thousands of British citizens of Asian descent, who are just getting on with their lives,” he said.
What’s more, he added, Britons of south Asian descent “are as worried about terrorism as any other ethnic group in this country”.
Police said the 13 men, aged 19 to 32, were arrested under the Terrorism Act 2000 as part of an “intelligence-led operation,” but have refused to confirm that at least one is a kingpin in Osama bin Laden’s Al Qaeda network.
Two of the men have since been released without charge. The others can be detained for questioning through Sunday, unless a court-ordered extension is obtained. Anu lives in Southall, a 15-minute train ride from London’s Paddington station, a neighbourhood with thriving communities with roots in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
Twenty-five percent of inhabitants of Ealing, the outer London borough that includes Southall, claim to be of south Asian origin, according to the 2001 national census. Nationwide, five percent of the total population, or nearly 2.25 million, identified themselves as “(south) Asian or Asian British”.
Anu was not the only one who objected to what is seen as a tendency by the news media in Britain to emphasise the Pakistani connection when it comes to confronting global terrorism. “I do get angry with reports which always seem to mention Pakistan as the origin or safe-haven for all terrorists,” said a housewife who gave her name only as Nisha. “Articles I’ve read in the last couple of days seem to say that the arrested suspects are ‘thought to be of Pakistani origin’. Can’t they check their facts before they assume it?” “The media is always keen to report on the drama of the arrests, but we don’t hear when these people are released because they have done nothing wrong,” she added. Reaction to this week’s arrests in Southall was firmly divided.
Some residents who spoke to AFP, like Anu and Nisha, were fed up with the string of news reports linking the arrested suspects to Pakistani communities across Britain. afp