16 July 2001
This brief fact finding report by a team from The Muslim Council of Britain visiting Bradford on 13 July 2001 cannot claim to be comprehensive or systematic. Nevertheless, it was able to hear the views of many Muslim residents, observers to the events and those who had played a role in seeking to contain the situation.
- The damage to life and property was against the law and cannot be condoned. However the situation was firstly provoked by the National Front/BNP, then further exacerbated by the type of tactics adopted by the Police, and finally exploited by a small, opportunistic trouble-making core. The vast majority of the rioters were local youth compelled by a sense of frustration and anger.
- The parents are acutely aware that their children are their responsibility but they face a crisis of moral authority. The school system encourages the young to challenge parental discipline and does not do enough to stamp out a drug culture. There is need to improve the outreach of mosques to provide youth facilities and moral education.
- All sections of the Asian Muslim community youth, parents and community leaders believe the schools are in crisis. There are institutional problems of poor standards, low achievement, few Asian Muslim teachers in schools with predominantly Asian Muslim children and a reluctance to involve Muslim parents as school governors.
- The Police are perceived by the Asian Muslim community by youth, parents and community leaders alike to be indifferent to their complaints and racist. The Police are not trusted by an important section of the Asian Muslim community. The gap of trust between the Police and the community is widening.
- The Muslim community leaders feel frustrated that funding allocated in Bradford over the years for regeneration have not made the impact expected. A further increase in resources to the Police is not the answer. An audit should be undertaken to establish why real changes on the ground have not taken place.
The MCB is convening a National Conference of Muslim organisations on 4 August 2001 in Oldham to enable Muslim youth workers, community workers, Imams and other experts to share views and identify courses of action to restore confidence in community relations.
Findings on the week-end troubles
- Some developments before the week-end
- Events of Saturday 7th July
The news spread that the NF was in town. The Anti-Nazi League started gathering in Centenary Square mostly Asian Muslims. The Police announced that the NF was no longer in the City and the crowd could return home. However the NF emerged from two pubs in the centre of town, shouted abuse and beat up and stabbed an Asian youth badly.
- The pub owner said that he could see the Police watching the attack.
- The injured boy would corroborate that the Police watched the attack taking place.
- We had told the Police prior to the attack that the man involved in the stabbing was a member of the NF.
Police officers were 5 yards away from the incident. They could see the abuse, then the stabbing; only then did they come and surround the injured boy.
The Police arrested one (of the attackers) but not another.
The crowd increased in size from 500 to over a 1000. We, the Muslim leaders, requested the Police to keep the youth in the city centre, but we were told ‘We know better than you’.
When the NF youths were taken out of town, they were not taken away in vans, but walked through the Muslim residential areas.
The crowd was forced by the Police out of the town centre and into residential areas.
When the peaceful community of the Oaklands area who have every right to be protected called the Police, they did not come.
The Police themselves say that they received 79 calls of support from the Muslim community on Saturday night.
- Events of Sunday 8th July
Between 1 am to 3.45 am there was not a single Police car or officer in sight.
When the Police was reported that the BMW garage had been broken into they replied ‘That’s good’. They should have made arrests there and then.
The distance from the BMW garage to the Police station is 5 minutes. Muslims informed the Fire Brigade about the garage fire, but they refused to come if the Police was not there. A Police helicopter was overhead and could see where the crowd was gathering. The Police came after the garage was burned. It seems that the Police will not take the blame on itself.
There seemed three elements in the riot: those aggrieved by the earlier stabbing; some outside elements from other Northern towns, and a criminal element seeking to take advantage of the chaos.
It seems that pubs and clubs were targeted.
Why did the Police not consult the local Muslim institutions?
The Police called in from outside did not know the Bradford community.
4. Events of Monday 9th July
Fifteen minutes before my Uncle’s pizza place in Holme Wood was attacked I phoned the Police to tell them that white youths were grouping outside and shouting abuses. The Police did not seem interested. The white youths then threw stones and smashed the windows. When the Police arrived, I offered to identify the culprits, but the Police refused to act. Another Asian gave the Police the registration number of the white youths car, but the Police instead threatened to arrest him. A white neighbour videoed the attack and told the Police, but this was not followed up.
Some General Observations on the situation in Bradford
1. Parents’ views
The issue is one of education the standards have dropped in both white and non-white estates.when children come back from school there are no leisure centres, no libraries where they could be occupied, so they mess about in the streets
(Mr Abid, Claremont Road Mosque)
There are estates, even white-only estates, where there are no facilities, no clinics, no schools. We need steps for better education ..we need character-building and moral education in schools.
(Mr Umber, Claremont Road Mosque)
There are schools with 100% Asian children but all teachers are white…there is resistance to the election of even one Muslim governor
(Mr Ismail, Claremont Road Mosque)
We have gained a bad reputation. We need to improve parenting.
(Mr Abid, Claremont Road Mosque)
There is blame on both sides. Parents have not educated their children children are ill-educated and unemployed and hang around street corners there is a drug mafia involved we have a large proportion of youth in these areas who can be easily exploited we need steps for better education.
(respondent, Claremont Road Mosque)
- Youth views
The problems are related to the drug culture. Police seem reluctant to act in case of being called racist.
(Mr Mughal, student)
There is very poor contact and integration between the Muslim and white youth.
- Views of community leaders
We are apprehensive and worried there is an attempt to show Muslims are not a peaceful community, always challenging, who will never integrate crimes are being committed by a very small minority so the whole community is tarred.
It is wrong to pinpoint any single factor it is multidimensional: identity crisis in youth which makes them angry and abusive, for a very small minority; underachievement; lack of parental control; a strong sense of insecurity leading to alienation and despondency.
There has been a systematic approach by public institutions and the law and order authorities to isolate and segregate the Muslim community and then project them as a cause for problems and trouble-making.
The contact with the Police is restricted to participation in Ethnic Minority community liaison committees.