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London’s East End to unite after bomb attacks

July 15, 2005

By Kate Holton

LONDON (Reuters) – On July 6, London won the right to host
the 2012 Olympics in part because of its multi-racial society
which offers a home to people from all over the world.

Twenty-four hours later, suicide bombings killed more than
50 people in the British capital.

The four men suspected of carrying out the attacks were
Muslims of ethnic Pakistani origin, born and brought up in
Britain, and police have warned British Muslims of a violent
backlash.

In east London, the site of the Olympic Park and one of the
city’s most diverse and poorest areas, locals say they are not
concerned by the threat of reprisals and the games were a
perfect example of the world coming together in peace.

“The point is in east London we live together and we work
together,” shop owner Ahmed Raja told Reuters.

“We grow up together. Some people may have those thoughts,
perhaps out of London where it isn’t racially so mixed, but in
east London we don’t. It isn’t ever a problem.”

London was awarded the 2012 Olympics over favorites Paris
after London stressed the multi-cultural nature of the city,
where more than 300 languages are spoken among 200 ethnic
communities.

Every athlete would have a community to welcome them, the
organizers said.

London Mayor Ken Livingstone, a passionate supporter of the
bid, said it was this very diversity which would keep the city
together in the wake of the attacks.

“This is not an attack against the rich and powerful,” he
said, hoarse with emotion, hours after the bombs hit the
central London transport system.

“It is not an attack on the politicians but at ordinary,
working-class Londoners. Black and white, Muslim and Christian,
Hindu and Jew, young and old.

LONDON DREAMS

“Even after your cowardly attack, you will see that people
from the rest of Britain, people from around the world will
arrive in London to become Londoners and to fulfil their dreams
and achieve their potential.”

The East End is the traditional heart of working class
London and home to the thousands of immigrants who flock to the
city to find work and a new life.

Compared to the bustling entertainment district in the West
End and the upmarket financial centers of the neighboring City,
the East End has clearly been left behind.

England’s national flag flutters from high rise buildings
in among the many satellite dishes and on the streets, endless
graffiti and deserted cars blight the landscape.

Windows are boarded up and houses stand derelict.

Livingstone said he had backed the Olympic bid as a way to
regenerate the area.

In 1993, the far-right, anti-immigration British National
Party won their first ever council seat in the East End,
playing on the fears of white residents who resented the
growing numbers of immigrants.

But locals said despite the many problems of high
unemployment and soaring crime rates, the different communities
would not turn on each other and added they were more likely to
unite than divide.

There are currently no far right councillors in east
London.

WORKING CLASS

“There aren’t any tensions here,” Owen Dixon, a shop owner,
told Reuters. “Everyone gets along well because we’ve always
lived together.

“This is working class London. We stick together.”

Britain’s leading campaigner for racial equality Trevor
Phillips told Reuters he was pleased with the way the city had
reacted and said a decade ago, things would have been very
different.

“The bombers want to divide this city because of its
easy-going, multi-cultural mix. The fact that people work
together and live together is an affront to them.”

A spokesman for the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) said
some Muslims had been subjected to a higher than usual level of
abuse since the bombings, including attacks on mosques and hate
mail from mostly far right groups.

But they have also received many messages of support from
non-Muslims and the MCB said the reaction was far more
supportive than after the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States
when a string of assaults left at least one Muslim paralyzed.

The East End became the face of defiance during World War
II as its “gritty” people withstood heavy bombings and locals
and members of the British Olympic committee said they would
strive to achieve this once again.

“I can assure you that these terrible acts in no way reduce
our resolve to run an excellent Games,” British IOC member
Craig Reedie said. “The worst thing would be to concede to
these people.”

While many of the east Londoners expressed concerns over
the price of the Olympics and who would pay, the majority were
enthusiastic and said the Games would attract tourism and an
even greater cultural mix to the area.

“On Wednesday I remember thinking I wasn’t too keen on the
Olympic Games,” Londoner Tiffany Draper said.

“But now I’ll definitely get behind it now.”




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