Little Green Footballs

Saturday, August 19, 2006

I can see no 'Walthamstan' on the streets where I live

Vanessa Walters on the Asian community, Islam and the East End.

With the rising number of Asians, as well as eastern Europeans, many of whom are Muslim, Islam has had an increasingly visible profile in the area. On weekday mornings the play area in front of the shopping mall is full of women in hijabs. But a noticeably high proportion of Muslim men in Walthamstow are white and Afro-Caribbean as well as Asian. So I reject the references over the past week to "Walthamstan" in the media, which seem to be painting east London as an isolationist Pakistani Muslim community and a haven for terrorists.


The government has failed to properly understand what the community in east London is, just as it failed the lost generation that Islam was trying to help. Last summer a friend of mine, Christian Small, a man of Jamaican origin, was killed in London's 7/7 bombings by another young man of Jamaican origin who had converted to Islam and been radicalised. Is this a meaningless coincidence? I would say not. The idea that a homogeneously Asian Muslim community of "Walthamstan" has taken over an area of London to pursue a culture of isolationism is erroneous. From ridiculous ricin theories to fruitless raids in Forest Gate and a fatally flawed shooting, in the government's war on home-grown terror there has been an abject failure to see the wood from the trees.
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