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Muslims targets in terror backlash

By CNN's Graham Jones

LONDON, England (CNN) -- Graffiti on a wall near a mosque in South Shields, northeast England, confirms a chilling reaction to last week's terrorist atrocities in New York and Washington.

"Avenge U.S.A." is the scrawled message in red paint. "Kill a Muslim now."

Terrorism in the United States has prompted an upsurge in anti-Muslim attacks all over Europe.

Mosques and Muslims have been targeted in The Netherlands, Britain, Denmark and Poland in apparent retaliation for last week's mass murders by suicide teams.

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"It is worldwide. We are now getting reports of a lot of attacks and demonisation of Muslims in Australia," said Masoud Shadjareh, chairman of Britain's Islamic Human Rights Commission.

"It is madness," he told CNN. "People are being punched and kicked in the streets and spat upon. In Britain we have even had a report about a child's headscarf being forcibly removed by a teacher."

In The Netherlands a mosque and two classrooms at a Muslim school were set alight in separate incidents.

Classes were cancelled at a primary school in the southern town of Nijmegen after one attack.

In Zwolle, eastern Holland, at the weekend only the quick reaction of police and firefighters put out a fire at a mosque before it swept through the building.

In Copenhagen, a 28-year-old Dane was arrested when he was about to hurl petrol bombs at a mosque. Buying petrol at a gas station he had told staff: "Now I am going to do the Americans a favour."

On Tuesday night in the city of Moerkoev near Holbaek, western Sealand, an Afghani-owned pizzeria was attacked by unknown men, who smashed the windows of the shop and threw burning petrol inside. They left a Danish flag outside. The police linked the incident to a similar incident a month ago.

The attacks and the fear of xenofobia led Danish Muslims to call an emergency meeting.

Danish Foreign Minister Mogens Lykketoft denounced the incidents as attempts to incite violence against Muslims and equate terrorism with Islam. Denmark has 170,000 Muslims, about three percent of the population.

In Poland, which does not have a large Muslim population, a mosque was attacked by stone-throwing youths.

On Wednesday in Manchester, northwestern England, a summit of community leaders was called to discuss growing anti-Islamic racism, including the petrol-bombing of a Mosque in Bolton, Greater Manchester, while 20 people, including children, worshipped inside.

Other incidents in Britain have included street beatings and women in Muslim dress being abused and attacked, while some mosques have been daubed with graffiti and sent bomb threats

An Afghan taxi driver was paralysed from the neck down after being dragged from his cab in Twickenham, southwest London, and beaten by three men who made comments about the destruction of the World Trade Center.

A 19-year-old Asian girl in Swindon, western England, was also battered about the head by two men with a baseball bat.

Yousouf Bhailok, secretary of the Muslim Council of Britain, told CNN the situation was "worrying" and could get worse.

"These people are British citizens. It must be made clear these actions should not be tolerated," he said.

Shadjareh called for laws outlawing anti-Islamism in the same way anti-Semitism is made illegal and he warned that extremists were trying to exploit the situation

"There is a Europe-wide organisation called White Knight, a successor to Combat 18, which takes as its patron saint Santiago Matamorosa, famed for slaying Muslims.

"Unfortunately President Bush and Tony Blair send out mixed signals on this. On the one hand they visit mosques to show their support, on the other Bush talks about a 'crusade' -- a word with connotations of a religious bloodbath."

Blair, the UK prime minister, and Sir John Stevens, in charge of London's Metropolitan Police, warned on Tuesday that revenge attacks against Muslims in the UK would not be tolerated. London Mayor Ken Livingstone has also called for harsh penalties for culprits.

In an article for the Daily Jang, a London-based daily newspaper for the Asian community, Blair said the Muslim community as a whole should not be blamed for last week's terrorist atrocities in America.

And Sir John said London's police were "extremely mindful of the possibility of heightened community tension" following the attacks.

Khan Moghal, the head of Manchester's racial equality council, who chaired Wednesday's meeting of community leaders, told Britain's Press Association: "Retaliation must be against the perpetrators of the attacks and not the whole of the Muslim community because of the actions of some individuals.

"The whole Muslim community should not be held responsible. We do not want these incidents to split the community, we want the community to help to each other."

• Islamic Human Rights Commission
• Muslim Council of Britain

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