Muslims Report Distrust After July 7 Bombings It has been a year since the bombs exploded on three underground trains and a bus in London, killing 52 and injuring hundreds. Police say the blasts were set off by four suicide bombers, members of Britain's Muslim community who had no known ties to international terrorists. Since the blasts, British Muslims say they have been treated with anger and suspicion, and that the whole community is being blamed for the actions of four individuals.

Muslims Report Distrust After July 7 Bombings

Muslims Report Distrust After July 7 Bombings

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It has been a year since the bombs exploded on three underground trains and a bus in London, killing 52 and injuring hundreds. Police say the blasts were set off by four suicide bombers, members of Britain's Muslim community who had no known ties to international terrorists. Since the blasts, British Muslims say they have been treated with anger and suspicion, and that the whole community is being blamed for the actions of four individuals.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

One thing that is known: the bombers were four young British men, the sons of immigrants. Police say they had turned to radical Islam. During the past year, Britain's Muslim community and the government have tried to work together to combat extremism, but as NPR's Rob Gifford reports from London, few people seem happy with the results.

ROB GIFFORD reporting:

This weekend at a huge conference center in North London an exhibition called Islam Expo is taking place, promoting dialogue and understanding, say the banners draped all around the hall. Muslim speakers, Muslim businesses, even Muslim theater groups are all doing their little bit to present a peaceful face of Islam.

(Soundbite of singing)

GIFFORD: The Khayaal Theater Company is performing a series of plays from the Muslim world in English to audiences here.

Unidentified Woman: The sun dances on the waves. The wind was fresh, but not too boistrous.

GIFFORD: Khayaal means imagination in Arabic. Khayaal's director, Luqman Ali says Muslims have always needed to use imaginative ways to build bridges with the non-Muslim majority in Britain.

Mr. LUQMAN ALI (Director, Khayaal Theater Company): For us, we have chosen theater because theater on one hand is quintessentially British, if you like, you know (unintelligible) stage theater and then we're marrying it or fusing it with Muslim world literature. And we're working with both Muslim actors and non-Muslim actors, so on various levels, we are seeking to demonstrate this reconciliation, this synthesis, which is going to lead us to the sort of understanding that we're aiming for.

GIFFORD: Cultural understanding within Britain is difficult enough, with many law-abiding Muslims feeling they've been targets of suspiscion since July 7 last year. It's made even more difficult by the British government's involvement with what many Muslims see as military oppression abroad. The war in Iraq and, and to a lesser extent in Afghanistan, have been a constant irritant and many in the Islamic community say Prime Minister Tony Blair's comments this week on Muslim grievances have not helped.

Prime Minister TONY BLAIR (United Kingdom): If you want to defeat this extremism, you've got to defeat its ideas and you've got to defeat, in particular, a completely false sense of grievance against the West. And that has to be done, yes, by government, but it also has to be done by mobilizing that moderate majority within the Muslim community to go into the community and take these people head on.

GIFFORD: Both Muslims and non-Muslims have been angered at Blair's refusal to hold a public inquiry into the bombings of last year. They say he's afraid an inquiry would expose the war in Iraq as a motivation for the bombers.

But for Blair to publicly deny that Muslims have any kind of justification for grievances against British foreign policy was too much for some Islamic organizations. Many Muslims feel that their proposals for improving community relations have not been acted on by the government. Taje Mustaffa(ph) is spokesman for the group Hisbut Tahrir(ph).

Mr. TAJE MUSTAFFA (Spokesman, Hisbut Tahrir): This is a man in denial, the prime minister. After this tragedy of 7/7, we all condemned it. Every Muslim community leader came out and condemned it. We said that there's no basis in Islam. The working groups and others have said, look, there are legitimate grievances which the government needs to address and it has to do with foreign policy. This morning he said, grievances, what grievances? He wants to create a narrative to say we can talk about everything, but don't touch foreign policy.

(Soundbite of Arabic chanting)

GIFFORD: Kareem Osman(ph) bows for evening prayers in the living room of his home. Osman is a second-generation immigrant, a student of computer sciences in London. He wears the traditional sherawat kameez of his Pakistani origins and a long beard. Osman is angry about Iraq and about Tony Blair, though he, like the vast majority of British Muslims, absolutely condemns the bombers as un-Islamic. But he says July 7 has definitely affected Muslims in Britain, and he says racism now has a very religious nature to it.

Mr. KAREEM OSMAN (Muslim Student Resident, London): The racism which existed prior to that has a channel to be justified because of these events. Before, if someone called you a Paki in England, I don't know if you use that term in America, that person would be called a racist. But if someone called you bin Laden or (foreign word) Taliban now, because of these attacks, it's become more acceptable. People sort of hide their racism under that cover.

GIFFORD: The danger is that some Muslims, angered and ashamed that the bombers emerged from their communities, have retreated even further from mainstream British society, and with relations between the government and Muslim leaders under increasing strain, it seems it is not just the personal wounds of July 7, 2005 that will take a long time to heal. Rob Gifford, NPR News, London.

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