Europe, Islam's New Front Line: Britain

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Among Britain's 1.8 million Muslims, anxiety is growing over a sharp rise in what the British call Islamophobia. Post-Sept. 11 anti-terrorist legislation and proposals for even tougher measures have led to widespread disaffection, anger and isolation among Muslim youth. The result is a widening generational disconnect, as NPR's Sylvia Poggioli reports from London in the third story in our series on Muslims in Europe.

Mohammed Sham-Su'ddin

Mohammed Sham-Su'ddin, 55, lives in London's Banglatown neighborhood. A Muslim from India, Sham-Su'ddin says he no longer feels safe: "The police stop us, search us, but we have nothing, police can search anybody." Sylvia Poggioli, NPR hide caption

toggle caption Sylvia Poggioli, NPR

Britain is unique in Europe: after the breakup of its empire, it became a haven for Muslims from around the world, and it nurtured a Muslim establishment, whose members include prominent doctors, lawyers, writers and journalists.

Ahdaf Soueif

Egyptian-born author Ahdaf Soueif, who has made London her home, worries that the rise of Islamophobia is eroding what she calls the "mezzaterra:" Sylvia Poggioli, NPR hide caption

toggle caption Sylvia Poggioli, NPR

A recent poll showed that 33 percent of Muslims want more integration in mainstream British society. But Britain's Muslim upper crust — whose size is difficult to measure — is a leadership without followers. The vast majority of British Muslims live in poor, closed communities.

The men who live in these Muslim enclaves are keenly aware that they've become the prime targets of police scrutiny. According to a report issued last week by the Open Society Institute, young Muslim men are increasingly at risk of social exclusion; many feel they are "under siege."

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict and events in Iraq have further fuelled the polarization and radicalization of young Muslim men. It's a source of anguish for British Muslims who still believe in what Egyptian-born author Ahdaf Soueif calls the "mezzaterra" — the common ground between cultures.



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