WAR ON TERROR: FOCUS - the Front Line - the Race Worker ; Parveen Betab Works with Ethnic Minority Communities - Including Muslim Groups - in East London, Monitoring Racial Attacks

Article excerpt

Parveen Betab, working in the heart of the black community in Newham, east London, has monitored an alarming rise in racial attacks during the past three weeks. "Things were bad enough beforehand," says the 30- year-old community development officer for Newham Monitoring Project (NMP), "but now there's tension in the air. You feel anything could happen."

Though not herself a Muslim, Ms Betab feels as much a victim of Islamophobia as Muslims in this deprived borough. Recent experience has shown her that "everyone is a Muslim in the eyes of a racist".

"There has already been a racist backlash since 11 September," she says. "In America we know that a Muslim and a Sikh have been murdered but we're still not getting the full picture with regard to the number of attacks. Here in England an Afghan taxi driver has been left paralysed and mosques have been firebombed. In Newham people are afraid to go to prayers on Friday because the mosque is a potential target. People are very wary and very afraid. Today in the office we had five calls on our emergency 24-hour line reporting incidents of racial harassment - an unprecedented number.

"There's a lot of tension in the air because inevitably calls for military retaliation will set people apart in a racially mixed area like Newham. People are upset, angry and afraid because Muslims have become falsely demonised as fanatics and terrorists."

With the increase in calls to the emergency lines reporting racial harassment, NMP is extending their emergency outreach work. …