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In bombers' UK hometown, Muslims still feel shunned

Written by: Staff
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BEESTON, England, July 6 (Reuters) Muslims living in this rundown northern English suburb still feel shunned a year after two men from their community blew themselves up on London's transport system.

Hardly anyone stops by the shops dotted among the rows of uniform red-brick terraced houses in this predominantly south Asian neighbourhood of Leeds. Tiny back yards are strewn with rubbish and debris.

''Business in the area has been severely affected,'' said a furniture shop owner in Beeston, who complained of a subtle economic boycott since the bombings -- because he is Muslim.

Spotless new furniture accumulated over the past 12 months clutters his shop, but no buyers have come.

''What I used to earn in a week before July 7 now takes a month,'' he said. ''They have associated us with the bombers.'' Britain has been on high alert since four British Muslims detonated bombs in their rucksacks in coordinated attacks on London's buses and underground trains in July 2005, killing 52 people.

Two of the bombers -- Mohammad Sidique Khan and Shehzad Tanweer -- both lived in Beeston, while Hasib Hussain lived in a different area of Leeds. The fourth bomber, Jermaine Lindsay, lived northwest of London.

Many in the community blamed UK foreign policy in Iraq for the bombings, which they say were also fuelled by the long-standing alienation of Muslims from society. The cloud of suspicion has yet to lift.

Britain is home to around 1.8 million Muslims, nearly 3 percent of the population.

''There is no doubt there has been an effect on businesses owned by Muslims in the area. There will be some politics in boycotting the shops by some people,'' said Arshad Chaudhry, chairman of the Leeds Muslim Forum.

YOUNG MUSLIM MEN One dishevelled customer shuffled into a virtually empty barber shop and haggled over a bill of 6 pounds. Down the road, a battered wooden board announced the entrance to the Kashmir Muslim Community Centre, housing a mosque where some of the bombers previously prayed.

Though many of the young Muslim men who pray at the mosque are reluctant to speak about the bombers, particularly if they had grown up with them, others feel they now have a duty to speak out.

''People from the Muslim side should not be afraid to speak about it,'' said Sardar Mahmood, a 25-year old Muslim resident in Beeston.

''I just talk about it now -- it's not my fault what happened.'' MORE REUTERS SK ND1410

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