Civic leaders issue message of defiance
“WE stand united.” That was Suffolk's defiant message last night to the terrorists responsible for the London bombings.The show of solidarity came on the day when thousands of people across the county observed two minutes silence to remember those that were killed in last Thursday's attacks.
“WE stand united.” That was Suffolk's defiant message last night to the terrorists responsible for the London bombings.
The show of solidarity came on the day when thousands of people across the county observed two minutes silence to remember those that were killed in last Thursday's attacks.
To mark the tribute representatives from the church, local Muslim community, county and borough councils, Suffolk police and Suffolk Inter-faith Resources gathered at Suffolk College to express their unity.
And the message from everyone that attended was clear: “Suffolk will not be divided.”
The Rt Rev Richard Lewis, Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, who chaired yesterday's press conference, said: “We have come together to express our sincerity in condemning the London bombings and to offer our sympathy to victims and families.
“The events of July 7 were indiscriminate without regard to age, race or faith. We are one as citizens of this county, neither cowed nor divided as a result.
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“Terrorism succeeds when it makes people turn against each other or against one group in the community. Terrorism is defeated when we stand together as human beings against a common enemy.
“We stand together as representatives from the community of Suffolk and we are not divided. This message needs to be loud and clear.”
He added: “I am not worried about a racial backlash because the evidence is that community relations are very good.
“There haven't been any violent attacks and, although serious for the people involved, the incidents that have been reported have been relatively minor.
“There is a danger of focusing on the Muslim community as the body to sort it out but we have to be clear that they are not alone. The bottom line is that we are in it together.”
Jeremy Pembroke, Conservative leader of Suffolk County Council, echoed Bishop Richard's comments saying that the people of the county must stand “shoulder to shoulder” irrespective of their faith or creed.
Paul West, of Ipswich Borough Council, said the authority had a “proud record” of working together with ethnic minority groups within the community and would continue to do so in the wake of the terrorist attacks.
Mojlum Khan, who is a lecturer at Suffolk College and was representing the Muslim community, said that he was “appalled” at what had happened because the bombings had affected everyone.
“There were Muslim victims too in these attacks - they were indiscriminate,” he said. “It is a very difficult time to be a British Muslim. I'm deluding myself if I say anything otherwise.
“As a young Muslim brought up and educated in this country I feel shocked, appalled and horrified by what has happened.”
Mr Khan warned however that there was a chance that feelings could start to run high if community leaders were not careful.
“Suffolk is a much better compared to other places. I have worked here for 12 years and I consider it as one of the safest counties in my experience but I think there is a danger that people could explode the situation,” he continued.
“Muslims are going into their shells because they think they are going to be attacked. The Muslim community here in Ipswich is around four or 5,000 and very peaceful. Generally they have very little time for politics because they are too busy running their businesses.
“I have heard of incidents where Mosques have been vandalised in Ipswich and over the last couple of days I have heard of people saying that they have received racial abuse that they never have before.”
Mr Khan said that women were particularly at risk of being singled out because they often chose to wear traditional dress.
Cynthia Capey, of Suffolk Inter-Faith Resource, which promotes racial harmony, added: “There are people in our community that are irresponsible and don't think clearly and do things that are unkind. We want to promote education and deepen understanding, unless we do that it will continue in a mess and it will get worse.”
But chief inspector Julian Blazeby of Suffolk police said that incidents of vandalism and of racial attacks were at a minimum.
He said that although there had been some reports of verbal abuse and attacks on Mosques they were relatively minor.
Speaking after the press conference local MPs also called for the people of Suffolk to stand together in the aftermath of the tragedy.
Chris Mole, Labour MP for Ipswich, said: “I fully endorse any calls for the differing faith and ethnic communities in Ipswich and Suffolk to show solidarity at this time.
“It is only by all of the communities condemning the atrocities of last Thursday and committing themselves to our democratic ways of life that we will actually beat these terrorists.”
Richard Spring, Conservative MP for West Suffolk, said: “Irrespective of our religion and whatever our background terrorism seeks to destroy our way of life.
“We are in this together and have to deal with the problem directly. It is most important that we should continue to lead normal lives and not be intimidated.”