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UK rush to avert backlash on ‘Asians’

London, July 1: The finger of suspicion should not be pointed at Pakistanis in Glasgow, local politicians in Scotland said today following Saturday’s terrorist outrage at the airport when two men, including one of “Asian” appearance, rammed the terminal building with a flaming vehicle.

Anxious to prevent any sort of backlash at the well-settled and, on the whole, valued Pakistani community in Scotland, the country’s justice secretary Kenny MacAskill spoke after a visit to Strathclyde Police headquarters in Pitt Street, Glasgow.

He said: “We have evidence to believe that these people did not emanate from Scotland, apart from some evidence of them having resided here for a period of time. They were not born and bred here and for any suggestion to be made that they are home-grown terrorists is not true.”

The very fact that such a statement needs to be made indicates that every time there is a terrorist attack in Britain, the loyalty of Britain’s 1.6million Muslims is questioned, however unfairly, either for colluding with the perpetrators or even becoming the “enemy within”.

MacAskill stressed: “The Scottish Asian community is an integral part of Scottish society. They condemn, as does everybody else in Scotland, these incidents.

“The Scottish Asian community is a great credit to Scotland, they are part of the fabric that makes up the modern Scottish society and we will be seeking to reassure them and to work with them in any way we can,” the minister said.

So far, five people have been arrested by police who are linking the two car bombs found in London with yesterday’s incident in Glasgow.

As Britain’s state of alert was lifted from “severe” to “critical”, meaning the authorities believed more attacks were imminent, anti-terror officers intercepted two people — a man, aged 27, and a woman of 26 — on the M6 motorway in Cheshire on Saturday night.

Another person was picked up in Liverpool, where armed police have been raiding houses. Police are also searching properties in the village of Houston, near Glasgow airport.

Of the two arrested at Glasgow airport on Sunday afternoon, after they had rammed the terminal building with flaming Jeep Cherokee, one is said to be fighting for his life in the Royal Alexandra Hospital in the nearby town of Paisley.

He had apparently poured petrol over himself and set himself alight when confronted. A report that he had worn a suicide belt could not be confirmed. The other had shouted, “Allah, Allah,” when attempts were made to take him into custody.

It is not known which of the two is “Asian” — the description given by witnesses at the airport.

“Asian” is a catch-all phrase that many Indians do not like because they feel the vast majority of those wanted for terrorism and other crimes are Pakistanis.

In his first interview as Prime Minister, Gordon Brown said today: “We are dealing with a long-term threat. It is clear that we are dealing in general terms with people who are associated with al Qaida.”

Brown dismissed claims that the terrorists could find justification for their crimes in Islam but argued it was vital to secure the support of mainstream Muslims and isolate extremists from the community. “We have got to also fight it as a battle for hearts and minds. We have got to separate those great moderate members of our community from a few extremists.”

Osama Saeed, Scottish spokesman for the Muslim Association of Britain, commented: “I was at the airport with my two young children picking up relatives only a few hours earlier. These terrorists do not care who they kill. We are seething with anger about this. We are sick of being defined as a community by terrorism and having to answer for it.”

A similar message came from Labour MP Mohammad Sarwar, who acknowledged there could be young Muslim men with grievances.

“Yes, I understand there are people who are angry about foreign policy, I also accept there are people marginalised because of racism and no job,” he said. “But no cause, no reason, can justify killing innocent men, women and children. The real culprits are those people who brainwash these young people, born in this country, who were brought up in this country and who went to schools and universities in this country.”Filming has resumed on Jagmohun Mundhra’s Shoot on Sight, which deals with many of the issues raised by Sarwar. The film stars Naseeruddin Shah as Commander Tariq Ali who has to shoot and kill a terrorist, his own nephew.

US cologne ‘bomb’

Authorities found a suspicious package and evacuated the American Airlines terminal at John F. Kennedy International Airport today, but it proved harmless, officials said, reports AP from New York.

“It turned out to be a package containing cologne,” a spokesperson for the port authority, which runs the airport, said. Operations were back to normal within an hour and no flights were affected, the airline said.

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